"Perhaps I speak only for myself, perhaps it’s different for other writers; but for me, the making of a fantasy is quite unlike the relatively ordered procedure of writing any other kind of book. I’ve never actually thought: ‘I am writing fantasy’; one simply sits down to write whatever book is knocking to be let out. But in hindsight, I can see the peculiar differences in approach. When working on a book which turns out to be a fantasy novel, I exist in a state of continual astonishment. The work begins with a deep breath and a blindly trusting step into the unknown; I know where I’m going, and who’s going with me, but I have no real idea of what I shall find along the way, or whom I’ll meet. Each time, I am striking out into a strange land, listening for the music that will tell me which way to go. And I am always overcome by wonder, and a kind of unfocused gratitude, when I arrive; and I always think of Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time….
- Susan Cooper (Celebrating Children’s Books, 1981)
The art above is by Charles Robinson (brother of William Heath Robinson), 1870-1937.
From an article on fantasy literature for children by Lloyd Alexander (The Horn Book magazine, 1968):
"All art, by definition of the word, is fantasy in the largest sense. The most uncompromisingly (shall I say sordidly?) naturalistic novel is still a manipulation of reality. Fantasy, too, is a manipulation, a re-shaping of reality. There is no essential conflict or contradiction between literary realism and literary fantasy, no more than between science and humanism. Technical details aside, most of the things you can say about fantasy also apply to realism. I suppose you might define realism as fantasy pretending to be true; and fantasy as reality pretending to be a dream.
"Of course, for practical reasons — and librarians and teachers understand these better than anyone — we are obliged to catagorize and separate. Like it or not, we become specialists. The best we can do is make sure we are not nearsighted specialists. We can always keep in the back of our minds the idea that whatever our specialty, it is still an integral part of the whole. Literature for children is not quiet backwater, but a current of the mainstream."
More quotes about fantasy can be found here today, on Myth & Moor.
"Dealing with the impossible, fantasy can show us what may really be possible. If there is grief, there is the possibility of consolation; if hurt, the possibility of healing; and above all, the curative power of hope. If fantasy speaks to us as we are, it also speaks to us as we might be." - Lloyd Alexander
More quotes about why we need fantasy can be found here today on Myth & Moor.
The art above is by Richard Doyle (1824-1883).
Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
- Wendell Berry (from ”The Country of Marriage”)
Happy St. Valentine’s Day to you and all your loved ones.
"One reason that people have artist’s block is that they do not respect the law of dormancy in nature. Trees don’t produce fruit all year long, constantly. They have a point where they go dormant. And when you are in a dormant period creatively, if you can arrange your life to do the technical tasks that don’t take creativity, you are essentially preparing for the spring when it will all blossom again."
- Marshall Vandruff
(via Amanda Palmer via Neil Gaiman via Jonathan Carroll)
The little tree person is from one of my sketchbooks.
"If we choose to follow the bear, we will be saved from a distracted and domesticated life. The bear becomes our mentor. We must journey out, so that we might journey in. The bear mother enters the earth before snowfall and dreams herself through winter, emerging with young by her side. She not only survives the barren months, she gives birth. She is the caretake of the unseen world. As a writer and a woman with obligations to both family and community, I have tried to adopt this ritual of balancing public and private life. We are at home in the deserts and mountains, as well as in our dens. Above ground in the abundance of spring and summer, I am available. Below ground in the deepening of autumn and winter, I am not. I need hibernation in order to create."
- Terry Tempest Williams
The paintings above are by Theodor Kittlesen (1857-1914), Susan Seddon Boulet (1941-1997), Julianna Swaney, and Jackie Morris.
You’ll find more bear art and words on Myth & Moor this week here:
“Following the bear”
“Embracing the bear”
"She sang the faeries to her, with a voice of golden nectar and thistles."
Lynn’s latest, a real beauty.
Calling all poets…
Coming up on Myth & Moor next week, as promised: the Winter Poetry Challenge. If you missed the last one, go here to find out what it’s all about. And please help spread the word to any poets (published or unpublished, young or old) who might like to participate…as well as to poetry lovers, who can contribute as well by giving the poets feedback. The Challenge will run from Tuesday, January 14 through Saturday, January 18.
The painting above is “The Snow Maiden” by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953).
A New Year’s wish for all practioners and fans of Mythic Arts:
May the year ahead be magical, transformational, and wildly creative, but also calm and thoughtful, harmonious and balanced. May your pathway lie clear, your desk clean and ready, with the tools that you need always right near at hand. May your body and mind and spirit be strong for the things that you know in your heart must do (and may this be the year that you finally do them). May your work go well, and your rest time too. May problems be fewer and friends be many. May old hurt soften and old grief lighten. May life, art, and love never fail to surprise you.
"If you find yourself saying, ‘I have no right to be sad; I have a home and enough to eat and a warm bed and good health….’
"Yes, there is sorrow in the world. But don’t use others’ misfortune as a stick to beat yourself in your own discontent. This is the last resort of someone who doesn’t believe she deserves to be happy.
"Dream big. Find what makes you happy, and pursue it as you would food and warmth. You deserve it. And if you don’t, then do what it takes to become worthy of it."
- Ellen Kushner
The image above is by the Russian surrealist photographer Katerina Plotnikova.
”I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
”Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
”So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
”Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
― Neil Gaiman
From a post about “home” and “magical houses” in folklore and fantasy on Myth & Moor:
"The places we’ve live, and the places we grew up in often have an impact (whether acknowledged or not) on our lives, our relationships, our dreams… and the houses we yearn for, whether real or imagined, reveal much about our inner nature. As a folklorist, I’m interested in how the idea of "home‘“is expressed in traditional stories; and as a fantasist, in how this translates into modern magical fiction.
"Fairy tales, for example often begin with a hero propelled from his or her home by poverty or calamity; and the search for the safe haven of a new home, or the task of restoring prosperity to an old one, is central to such stories. Such tales are rites–of–passage narratives, chronicling a transformational journey from one archetypal life stage to another. Most often, the tale follows a young hero’s transition from childhood to adulthood, the completion of the journey symbolized by a wedding at the story’s end.
"In the modern, simplified versions of the tales popularized by Disney films and children’s books, the emphasis is so often placed on the romantic (and wealth accumulating) aspects of the stories that finding ‘true love’ (with a well heeled spouse) can seem to be what fairy tales are all about. Older, adult versions of the tales, by contrast, are focused on the steps of the hero’s passage through a period of upheaval and peril — a period required to test the hero’s mettle and provoke growth and self–transformation. Such tales speak to the challenges we face at any time in life (not just in our youth) when circumstances force us to leave home, either literally or metaphorically, setting us on the road to an unknown future and a new identity. Catskin, Donkeyskin, The Girl With No Hands, The Wild Swans, Hans My Hedgehog: these are all rites–of–passage narratives. Each tale begins in a childhood home that has become constricting, even dangerous, and each hero must leave this home behind in order to forge a new life in the adult world. The completion of the hero’s task is marked by the traditional rewards of the fairy tale genre: a marriage, a crown, a storehold full of treasure; but the true reward at journey’s end is a new–found ability to survive life’s trials, transcend its terrors, and determine one’s own fate.”
(To read the whole piece, go here.)
Art above: An illustration for Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wind’s Tale,” by Edmund Dulac; an illustration for Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast,” by Alan Lee; and an illustration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” by Alan Lee.
"The artist’s gift refines the materials of perception or intuition that have been bestowed upon him; to put it another way, if the artist is gifted, the gift increases in its passage through the self. The artist makes something higher than what he has been given, and this, the finished work, is the third gift, the one offered to the world." - Lewis Hyde (The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World)
"The artist appeals to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition — and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation — to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity which binds together all humanity — the dead to the living and the living to the unborn." - Joseph Conrad (Works of Joseph Conrad, Vol. III)
"Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.” - Marian Anderson (“My Lord, What a Morning,” Written by Herself: Autobiographies of American Women)
"There are souls in this world who have the gift of finding joy everywhere, and leaving it behind them when they go.” - Frederick William Faber (Kindness)
The painting is one of mine, called Bunny Gifts.