Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fairyland for Grown-Ups

              “And I am growing up, Saturday!  I am growing up and I have read books, so many books, and I know that growing up means you can’t keep going to Fairyland the way you did when you were a child!  Something happens to you and suddenly you have to keep a straight face and a straight line and I am afraid!  I want something grand and I don’t want to know what it is before it happens!”
                “There are grown-ups in Fairyland” Saturday said.  “Who told you you couldn’t come back when you’re grown?  Was it the same person who told you grown-ups don’t cry or blush or clap their hands when they’re happy?  Don’t try to say otherwise, I’ve seen you fighting like a boxer to change your face so that it never shows anything.  Whoever told you that’s what growing up means is a villain, as true as a mustache.  I am growing up, too, and look at me!  I cry and I blush and I live in Fairyland always!”

--from Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

The other day I stumbled across part of this quote on Goodreads at the library while I was searching for another marvelous quote about libraries.  (I was still only part way through the book at the time, so I hadn't stumbled on this passage yet)  I confess when I read it, I had to blink my eyes pretty quickly to keep from crying at work.  Why?

Because despite the fact that fairy tales were originally written for adults, despite the fact that we all desperately need to retain a sense of wonder and imagination into adulthood when we can actually use that creative spark to add to the universe in constructive ways that kids might find difficult...

...somewhere along the lines, we got the message that only kids can go to Fairyland.

It started around the Victorian era I think, when childhood was turned into a revered state of being that was dismissed or ignored in previous eras.  The importance of recognizing a child's ability to imagine, to see things in a different way, became of paramount importance.  And in some ways this was a good thing.  In others, it wasn't.  Fairy tales were banished to the nursery, and stories like Peter Pan, and later the Narnia novels, reinforced the idea that when children grow up, they can no longer go to the magical worlds.

And once again, despite the fact that in older ballads and folk tales, it is usually adults who are spirited off under the hill to dance with the faeries...despite stories like Tam Lin and Lady Isobel and the Elf Knight where good strong women old enough to have babies of their own stand up to and defeat evil forces of faerie....

...on some level, we still believed only children can visit fairyland.

This basic rule, reinforced in so many of our favorite stories that kindled this sense of magic in our lives, stayed with us no matter how hard we try to force it back and ignore it.

It's because of this that I found myself blinking back tears as I read Cat Valente's words sitting at my desk in the library, my job where I get to work with thousands upon thousands of stories on the shelves...where I am paid to help pick out which story belongs with which person who walks in our doors.  Despite living with that magic every day, and fostering it in my soul with every breath I take, every beautiful thing I share to my friends on the internet, every line in every drawing and painting I do.... on some secret hidden level buried deep inside, I still am afraid that Fairyland is only for the young.

Catherynne Valente's words were like a spell that slapped me in the awakening that said "whoever told you this is foolish, and should not be trusted."  Fairyland is indeed for the fair young maidens with eyes wide with innocence and the dewy blush of youth.  But Fairyland is also for the wise woman whose beauty only comes with age, and with braiding her hair day by day as it grows more silver than gold.  Fairyland is for the hands that have created and expressed so much that they grow stiff and sore.  It's for the face that has smiled and reacted to so many memories that lines start to etch themselves in its smooth surfaces.  Fairyland is for always has been.  Some of us just forgot we already always held the key to its doors.

Linda, Kelly, Jacqui and Dancing Hands at Faeriecon.  Image source
Image source
Image of gorgeous woman at Faerieworlds was saved to my computer...source unknown and Google didn't help.  If you know the source of this beautiful image, please let me know!!


  1. Thank you so much for this post, it is so inspiring and beautiful! I have always believed we should continue to believe in magic, and no matter how jaded and exhausted we become from the harshness of normal life, that belief in magic just around the corner will keep us alive inside.

    No one should ever have to stop believing in magic! It is there for us all to brighten our worlds!

    I hope you don't mind, I shared a link to this on my blog. :)

  2. Only kids can go to Fairyland? Pish tosh! Who creates the lands for the kids to play in in the first place? :-)

  3. Only children? No, no, no, no, no! Not true, not possibly true! I spend days at a time visiting, and will continue to do so for as long as I live!