Friday, December 19, 2014
I have been listening for years (and I do mean decades) about the pro and cons of fantasy character stories for children. Some say the tales cause irreparable harm. After all a child might think Superman is real and jump off the roof trying to emulate him. In a case like that I personally think the child who is old enough to navigate his way onto the roof is not too bright if he thinks he can fly.
They also like to say that children are devastated to learn that their parents were lying to them about fantasy characters. The children can never trust their parents ever again.
I happen to believe that imagination is a sign of intelligence and should be encouraged. Without imagination inventors could not envision new concepts and we would still be chasing animals with sharp sticks and hunting for nuts and berries and we would have no toilet facilities. (I think I may be becoming a bit obsessed with that.)
I love to sit down with a two year old and begin a fantasy conversation. They are so receptive at that age. I will start with maybe wondering where someone is. Let's choose the dog. Maybe it's under the water dish? Did it hide in a dresser drawer? Under a pillow on the couch? Is it inside the walls? The child joins right in with some amazing possibilities. It is fun, funny, and stretches their minds.
I bought a book about fairies. You know that fairies do not like to be seen by humans. But they must be able to flit about so they disguise themselves. Did you see that leaf skitter across the lawn? It was a fairy. The shadow that you see from the corner of your eye when nothing is there is a fairy.
Often you will see toadstools arranged in a circle on the lawn. It means that the fairies were dancing under the moon. Every place they stepped left a mushroom.
Most nations have fairies of some sort. Gremlins from Germany like to tinker with mechanical things. They often cause malfunctions. Our family's Gremlin was named Petey. Boy did he cause a lot of problems.
The Djinn are from the Middle East. We think of them as being trapped in a magic lamp. If we rub the lamp to release them they are so grateful that they will grant up to three wishes.
The elemental sprites like naiads and dryads represent certain elements such as water and trees. They are lively and naive sprits who will waste away if taken from their homes.
The Irish have a whole group of fairies. They are known as the Sidhe (pronounced Shee). The Scottish counterparts are called Sidh (or Sith). They include the mound people, leprechauns, Banshee, Fear Dearg, Puca, and many more. Some are quite large and some are very small. Each type has its own magical properties and reasons for existance.
One of my favorite fantasies from childhood on is a "Tinkerbell". Tinkerbell is the fairy from the Peter Pan stories. I'm sure you have seen a Tinkerbell. Have you seen the light flickering on the wall? That is her. Some people try to say that it is nothing more than refracted sunlight. We know better.
Our first encounter with a fantasy character is usually Santa Claus. As Christmas nears many parents take their children to a store so they can sit on Santa's lap to tell him what they would like for Christmas. Some of us wrote our first letters to Santa to let him know we were good all year and would he please bring us our hearts' desires.
The Tooth Fairy is familiar to most children. I will never forget when my brother (one year younger that I was) came home holding his tooth that had come out. He wanted to know if the Tooth Fairy would come if he left it under his pillow. What??? Nobody said anything about any tooth fairy to me! I had already lost several teeth and threw them in the garbage. Life is not fair.
Uncle Sam is the figure who represents the United States. He is an older man, slightly dignified but not too much. Most of the time when we see pictures of him we see him pointing at us in a forceful way saying, "I Want You".
The Easter Bunny hippety-hops down the bunny trail for Easter. He delivers colored eggs and sweet treats to good girls and boys. It is a sign that spring is here and the world is waking to give us all the colors that make so many of us feel happy.
Now there are negative fantasies too. The boogey-man is one. He is the meanie that hides and plots to grab little children when they do not mind. I do not believe in him so my children were not familiar with him.
There are little jingles that children like to recite. Like "step on a crack, break your mother's back". It is very hard to avoid cracks when you must walk on a sidewalk that has not been repaired in a long time.
And the little chants we did when jumping rope are fun. "Sally and Johnny sitting in a tree k.i.s.s.i.n.g. First comes love then comes marriage then comes Sally with a baby carriage." If you made it that far then they went on to count how many babies there would be. Those flights of fancy are just plain fun.
As you can see I think these fantasies make childhood fun as it should be. They can be serious when they are adults. None of my children have been traumatized by knowing these fantasy characters.
Do you disagree with me? Prove me wrong.
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Of course I agree with the exercise of young imaginations. I can't imagine growing up without the fun of believing by suspending disbelief, or using the same mechanism to enjoy fictions in adulthood. It is part of enjoying life, a novelty that does not interfere with our sense of reality so much as enhance it. Wonderful post!ReplyDelete
I love reading a book and becoming a part of the story. My son once told me of the time he was reading a book and the descriptions were so real that he actually jumped when lightning flashed and struck the ground.Delete
I always believed in Santa Claus. I thought I saw him one year, I could have sworn I saw a "flash of red" when I came into the room with our Christmas tree. My Dad would chuckle over that for years, my "flash of red"! Imagination is good for kids and also can keep the parents amused!ReplyDelete
I am 67 years old and Santa still visits me. As I told my children, "When you stop believing, Santa stops coming to you."Delete