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FAITH, FACT, AND FAIRY TALE.
HERE is a current impression that fairies are
not any more believed in, and the booksellers
say that even among children fairy tales are going out of fashion. I read lately in a volume of German fairy tales the following lines :
O the happy, happy season
These lines convey well enough a wide-spread feeling that there is something incongruous between reason and imagination, and that sentiment is chilled by science. I could not but note how odd it was that these lines should be written in a volume of fairy tales whose complete recovery from the past was due to Grimm, a man of science. In folk-lore and fable it is science and rationalism which are preserving antiquity, just as they are preserving our ancient monuments. It is the dull, unreasoning world which would take the dolmens of Stonehenge to build a fence, and treat our fairy tales as mere paganism, were it not for the scholar and the man of science.
It is true that the age of reason, wherever it has gone, deprives the fairy tale of its realism, so that even children are hardly deceived by them any more. But we can hardly deplore this, when we reflect that the child who used to believe in good fairies had also to believe in demons, dragons, and bloodthirsty ogres—lineal descendents of the hell-hound Orcus. Many a child has been kept awake at night, trembling in the dark, for fear of witches riding in at the window on broomsticks. On the whole, we need hardly mourn over the vanished fairies any more than over the vanished gods; that is, the passing away of literal belief in them. All their sentiment is preserved as they appear now on the miniature stage of childish fancy.
The line says, Blessings brighten as they take their flight. It is equally true that things not blessings may look such when they have taken their flight. Just as
Schiller mourned that he could not believe in the gods of Greece, some minds that have not yet given heart and hand to the recognised truth of reason, may bemoan their lost beliefs. But what they remember fondly is only a few rosy features of their orthodoxy,-a Providence to pet them, and prospect of a luxurious Paradise. Just set such minds genuinely back into orthodoxy, the whole system of it, with sulphur smoke coming up to wither all their Paradise, and a jealous god angry every day, and they would be glad to get out of it again. People do not always remember the implications of what they sigh for. They are like the man who sighed for his boyhood again, until the fairy proceeded to grant his wish by taking away his wife and children, whereupon he decided that if he couldn't be a boy and have his wife and children too he would prefer to go on in the old
way. There is a great deal of mistaken sentiment about the early days of childlike faith, and their alleged superior beauty to the age of reason. Now, the truth is, the age of reason represents a small spot on the map of the world, and even at this day the belts surrounding it are shaded off in varying degrees until we find a very large one in which the dark ages still reign. There are places and people enough that still devoutly believe in a religion of fairy tales, and it is by no means difficult to estimate their advantages and disadvantages as compared with those who hold rational opinions.
On the oth day of October, 1876, the chief London journal contained two very remarkable letters. came from Spain, the other from America : by notable