Thursday, November 22, 2007

Enchanted: Fairy-Land Meets New York

When Fairy Tales and the "Real World" meet, it is usually a person from our world who takes the trip to Faery. JRR Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major is once such story. Some of George MacDonald's (19th Century) fantasies (such as Phantastes and Lilith) were also written in this vein. A story in which Faery comes to the "Real World" is a bit more uncommon.

Disney's new film (just released in theaters) Enchanted is not the first motion picture about Fairy Tale creatures coming to New York City. The TV Mini-Series The 10th Kingdom also toyed with the idea of what it would be like if inhabitants of the "Perilous Realm" found themselves here. In both these productions, the collision of the two worlds has some interesting effects.

In Enchanted, Giselle (Amy Adams) is sent by her wicked step-mother to New York City--"the place where Happily Ever After never happens." Her idealism has an effect on those she meets, especially Robert (Patrick Dempsey--Grey's Anatomy's "Dr. Dreamy"). But Reality also begins to have an effect on her, and she experiences anger for the first time. This is perhaps a picture of how it should be. Stories with a happy ending should give us hope. But Reality experienced by the story writer should infuse the "Happily Ever After" with a good dose of realism.

In a rarely-published poem,* JRR Tolkien speculated what it would be like if a Dragon visited modern England. After being pursued by the Fire Brigade, the dragon smashes and burns the town, and begins to eat the inhabitants. However, he discovers that people here are not very palatable ("Mister Higgins was tough, and as for Box just like his name he tasted."), so he decides to "bury the hatchet." Tolkien's poem has a somewhat confusing ending:

He [the dragon] saw the peaks far over the sea
round his own land ranging;
And he mused on men and how strange they be,
and the old order changing.

"None of them now have the wit to admire
a dragon's song or colour,
Nor the nerve with steel to meet his fire -
the world is getting duller!"

He spread his wings to depart;
but just as he was rising
Miss Biggins stabbed him to the heart,
and that he found surprising.

"I regret this very much," she said.
"You're a very splendid creature,
And your voice is quite remarkable
for one who has no teacher;

But wanton damage I will not have,
I really had to end it."
The dragon sighed before he died:
"At least she called me splendid."

The dragon comes from his own land in order to find "food and sport," but finds the sport is just not the same and the food not to his liking. He feels that he is not even appreciated for his glory, and that no one is bold enough to meet him with a blade. It turns out he is wrong. Miss Biggins, while appreciating his splendor, does not appreciate her world being disrupted, which is enough to give her courage enough to slay him.

Fairy Tales do not begin with "Happily Ever After." If they did, there wouldn't be a Story. Just like the real world, there is always a challenge--something that has gone wrong--something evil to face. Fairy Stories not only are able to give us a vision of splendor, but the courage to face evil with conviction that the happy ending is, at least to some degree in this life, possible. For the Christian, who has read "the back of the Book" and knows how it will turn out, there is even more reason to go on courageously.

1 Corinthians 15:57 [NKJV] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Revelation 21:4 [NKJV] And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

*"The Dragon's Visit," first published on February 4th, 1937 within The Oxford Magazine, Vol. 55. No. 11. It was reprinted in Douglas A. Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit in 1988 and a revised form (used above) can be found in Winter's Tales for Children I (Macmillan 1965), and The Young Magicians (Ballantine Books 1969).

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