Novelist and children's writer Ursula Le Guin once said that, "People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons." It's only lately that I've found the truth in this.
Recently I visited the Canadian National Exhibition, where I came upon a magical realist Chinese lantern exhibit, called Legends of the Silk Road. Walking through the exhibit, I found a stark similarity between its contents and that of a mythology textbook. There were pieces of Greek mythology, Scandinavian fairy tales and stories from around the world. I felt an extreme peace walking through that exhibit coupled with a sense of childlike wonder. The more I grow and change, the more I realize that our memories are the greatest form of comfort and discomfort that exist.
When I look at the sirens I think of the need to focus, the ground oneself in responsibilities instead of giving in to your desires. Something may appear beautiful, but can really be quite destructive, and you have to have the willpower to fight back.
When I look at Fairies I think, wouldn’t it be lovely to fly, to care for earth and protect nature? They look to me like sisters, united against the destruction of the world we call our own. It isn’t just that they are visually beautiful, their nature is to help, to treat the environment with kindness.
My childhood, the story of Aladdin has always taught me to be happy with myself and accept who I am, but wouldn’t it be nice to get what you want three times? Then again, it’s also to taught me to be careful of what I wish into my life.
It seems more and more that reality doesn’t cut it anymore. Since I was a child, I’d turn to magical realism as a refuge. I grew up with Percy Jackson, a regular kid with a fantastic family. I looked for monsters wherever I thought they could be, hoping maybe I was special enough to notice them. I looked for heroes to. I think we are enchanted by things that could almost be reality, because just maybe it’s possible that something could be greater than the lives we live. Modern myths are an extension of our reality, balanced on the tip of possible and impossible. They always have been. I don’t think we ever grow out of wanting to be supernatural in some way, to live a fantastical life.
It was by accident that I got my hands on Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore.” It’s a book that marries a fantastical world of dead souls and living animal-speakers with an average story of a sixteen-year-old running away from home. Murakami uses the myth of Oedipus as the basis for the character’s arc. What he does so wisely is make you believe that anything that happens in the story could happen in real life. People could really speak to cats or shapeshift their souls. And that’s cathartic in a sense. In contrast, there are tenets of realism that seem mystical. There’s a scene where the sixteen-year-old runaway spends three days in a cabin away from the rest of the world. It’s up in the hills, surrounded by only forests for miles and miles. It’s complete isolation. He goes through all the ups and downs that come with that.
Fear of the dark, then utter freedom.
It’s the kind of place I think we’d all want to escape to sometimes. I think the more we progress in terms of modernity, the more we try to define things by their histories. Use fables to describe our reality in softer terms. The use of metaphor in my own writing has only grown with time. It’s not just because it’s easier to speak on these terms. A metaphor reaches people faster than an explanation. It speaks to them deeply. The unreal feels more real than what we consider reality. I thought I’d grown out of Percy Jackson and the fantasy world I loved when I was younger but reading Murakami I realized it was exactly that non-reality that I had been craving. . I used to think I was immature for feeling this way. Walking through an exhibit at the CNE choked me up, something I would never expected to happen. The combination of these coincidence leading to my re-discovering of fantasy drives me to hold on to my child-like fables. The feeling that comes with consuming fantasy is an unparalleled freedom.