Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Good Ones Last

Where the children's story is simply the right form for what the author has to say, then of course readers who want to hear that, will read the story or re-read it, at any age. I never met The Wind in the Willows or the Bastable books till I was in my late twenties, and I do not think I have enjoyed them any the less on that account. I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz.

This canon seems to me most obviously true of that particular type of children's story which is dearest to my own taste, the fantasy or fairy tale. Now the modern critical world uses 'adult' as a term of approval. It is hostile to what it calls 'nostalgia' and contemptuous of what it calls 'Peter Pantheism'. Hence a man who admits that dwarfs and giants and talking beasts and witches are still dear to him in his fifty-third year is now less likely to be praised for his perennial youth than scorned and pitied for arrested development. If I spend some little time defending myself against these charges, this is not so much because it matters greatly whether I am scorned and pitied as because the defence is germane to my whole view of the fairy tale and even of literature in general.
~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children" (1966)


Cool link of the day: J.R.R. Tolkien: On Fairy Stories

1 Comment(s):

At Sat Feb 05, 12:10:00 PM EST, Blogger jesusandME said...

Is it presumptuous of me to say that as a children's writer, CSL's comments on the subject - such as this one - had a huge influence on me? I didn't want to write Narnia-style fantasies, but I did want to write stories that appealed to adults and to children, but were unbridaled in their magic and in the fantastical. And I remember being especially influenced by a quote I came across at the back of the VDT copy I owned, where Lewis was said to have claimed that he did not write books that he thought other people would be interested in, he wrote books that he would like to read himself. That has always been my motivation too. He also said that adult books are often praised and admired and children's books derided, but if you wanted to say something, really SAY something, you had to use a children's book because it was the only way to get away with it in this day and age. I think that is still true today. It was great to find that he had such similar thoughts on the matter as I did. I've often considered him like a spiritual grandfather or mentor if that makes sense..

I wonder if this is the essay in which he said those things?

xx Amatire xx


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