Fairy Tale Essay Introduction

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It is all very well to talk of the freedom of fairyland, but there was precious little freedom in fairyland by the best official accounts. Yeats's school suggests that in that world every one is a capricious god. Yeats himself has said a hundred times in that sad and splendid literary style which makes him the first of all poets now writing in English (I will not say of all English poets, for Irishmen are familiar with the practice of physical assault), he has, I say, called up a hundred times the picture of the terrible freedom of the fairies, who typify the ultimate anarchy of art - "Where nobody grows old or weary or wise, Where nobody grows old or godly or grave." But, after all (it is a shocking thing to say), I doubt whether Mr. I think the poets have made a mistake: because the world of the fairy-tales is a brighter and more varied world than ours, they have fancied it less moral; really it is brighter and more varied because it is more moral. It is impossible, of course, because nothing human can happen in a modern prison, though it could sometimes in an ancient dungeon.

Yeats really knows the real philosophy of the fairies. Though I say it who should not, in good sound human stupidity I would knock Mr. A modern prison is always inhuman, even when it is not inhumane.

Now, it is obvious that there are many philosophical and religious ideas akin to or symbolised by this; but it is not with them I wish to deal here.

It is surely obvious that all ethics ought to be taught to this fairy-tale tune; that, if one does the thing forbidden, one imperils all the things provided.

It is strange and weird that I cannot with safety drink ten bottles of champagne; but then the champagne itself is strange and weird, if you come to that.

If I have drunk of the fairies' drink it is but just I should drink by the fairies' rules.

The whole happiness of fairyland hangs upon a thread, upon one thread.

Cinderella may have a dress woven on supernatural looms and blazing with unearthly brilliance; but she must be back when the clock strikes twelve.

The boy eating some one's apples in some one's apple tree should be a reminder that he has come to a mystical moment of his life, when one apple may rob him of all others.

This is the profound morality of fairy-tales; which, so far from being lawless, go to the root of all law.


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