Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Do Believe In Fairies

At times I’m afraid I’m a bad influence on my daughter in some ways. I keep wanting to buy her books, toys and movies about fairies. Even as I work to empower her, to let her know she is strong and capable and that she can be her own superhero, I find myself constantly tempted by all things pink, magic, winged and girly. I try to resist and temper it. I have a feminist code to live up to, after all! When I tell stories about princesses I make sure that it is the princess who tames the dragon, no prince required. I like the Disney Tinkerbell movies because the fairy Tinkerbell as a character is curious, confident, and very capable as a problem solver in addition to being kind and beautiful. I try to be very conscientious about letting my daughter know I value her as a whole person, in all her aspects. Fortunately she’s a fairly sturdy child who knows what she likes and has faith in her own capabilities, even at the age of two and a half. She’s much more likely to roar and tell me she’s a dinosaur and demand eggs (because she has an idea that dinosaurs eat eggs) than she is to be a fairy princess.

The idea of fairies has always been fascinating to me. I think I’ve been a fantasy lover for as long as I’ve been able to read. As a child I loved the movies The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth, both done by Jim Henson and Frank Oz with Brian Froud as the artistic director. I loved fairy tales and read my mother’s copies of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Anderson’s Fairy Tales over and over. I remember in second grade there was a series of books on world myths, full of magic, that I checked out of the library repeatedly. Some of the oldest books on my bookshelves, the ones saved from childhood, are stories about magic. I love a great many things about fantasy, including the morality of fantasy stories, but I know that what I love most is the idea of magic and fairies.

One of my favorite gifts from my husband is the book “Good Faeries, Bad Faeries” by Brian Froud, edited by Terri Windling. In his introduction to the book Mr. Froud talks about fairies as present day beings, pulses of energy, emotion and light in the world around us. He features faeries such as The Computer Glitch, The Bad Hair Day Faery as well as a Faery of Focused Attention. All of the gorgeous faerie paintings are accompanied by text describing the faeries and their roles and actions. Part of the fun of the book is that the Good Faeries are printed on one half, the Bad faeries printed in reverse on the other half, so wherever you start you turn the book upside down (or right side up, depending on your perspective) halfway through. I like this idea of fairies invisibly surrounding us, helping or hindering as they bump up against our lives. 

I don’t think I will give up introducing fairies to my daughter, although I will also respect her own joys and will give her dinosaurs too. And I will do my best to share with her not just girly, pretty fairies but also fairies that are strong and true. I want her to see her world as full of hidden beauty and wild possibility. I want her to see herself as someone with incredible potential and creativity, and that’s what fairies represent for me. The hunger for magic and beauty has been a gift for me throughout my life, and I hope I can pass it along to my child.