The Rabbit Room welcomes its newest contributor. Travis Prinzi’s first book Harry Potter & Imagination: the Way Between Two Worlds is soon to be published, and he’s the proprietor of his own popular blog The Hog’s Head. He’s a Christian who is a bit of a geek about fairy stories and J.K. Rowling, which is to say that he fits right in. Welcome, Travis.
George MacDonald’s 184th birthday is this week (the 10th). Author of many works of fantasy and theology – including The Princess and the Goblin, Phantastes, and Lilith – he was a foundational influence on Lewis, Tolkien, and L’Engle. Along with his works fantastic fiction, he contributed an important essay on the genre, “The Fantastic Imagination.”
Here are a few excerpts which are well worth your careful consideration:
“You write as if a fairytale were a thing of importance: must it have meaning?”
It cannot help having some meaning; if it have proportion and harmony it has vitality, and vitality is truth. The beauty may be plainer in it than the truth, but without the truth the beauty could not be, and the fairytale would give no delight. Everyone, however, who feels the story, will read its meaning after his own nature and development: one man will read one meaning in it, another will read another.
“If so, how am I to assure myself that I am not reading my own meaning into it, but yours out of it?”
Why should you be so assured? It may be better that you should read your meaning into it. That may be a higher operation of your intellect than the mere reading of mine out of it: your meaning may be superior to mine.
A fairytale, like a butterfly or a bee, helps itself on all sides, sips every wholesome flower, and spoils not one. The true fairytale is, to my mind, very like the sonata. We all know that a sonata means something; and where there is the faculty of talking with suitable vagueness, and choosing metaphor sufficiently loose, mind may approach mind, in the interpretation of a sonata, with the result of a more or less contenting consciousness of sympathy. But if two or three men sat down to write each what the sonata meant to him, what approximation to definite idea would be the result? Little enough–and that little more than needful. We should find it had roused related, if not identical, feelings, but probably not one common thought. Has the sonata therefore failed? Had it undertaken to convey, or ought it to be expected to impart anything defined, anything notionally recognisable?
For the best internet resource on George MacDonald, see The Golden Key website.
See also Zossima Press’s George MacDonald materials. You can get his complete collected works on CD-ROM for $10.