Chesterton on Fairy Tales (or Fantasy)

G. K. Chesterton had a way with words. Some of my favorite quotes come from him, and that includes a quote about fairy tales. The quote is usually stated like this: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.” I actually heard it the other night on Criminal Minds (the TV show) of all places. Although Chesterton seems to be the original source for this idea, the quote is not exact. As best I can tell, the original source comes from Chesterton’s essay “The Red Angel,” in Tremendous Trifles (Amazon has a free Kindle version):

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

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