Lüthi Nails It

We briefly emerge from the paper writing trenches to bring you this piquant quote from Max Lüthi:

Fairy tales are unreal but they are not untrue; they reflect essential developments and conditions of man’s existence.

(from Once upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1970, p. 70)

There. That’s what it’s all about. Fairy tales are unreal but they are not untrue.You do yourself a big disfavour if you disregard that statement – if you try to take fairy tales as real, or if you dismiss them as untrue. Unreal, not untrue. Lüthi knew what he was talking about.

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3 thoughts on “Lüthi Nails It

  1. Very short, sweet, and to the point. And I agree. Real is,,,well…I’m not sure what is ‘real’ these days after reading postmodernist philosophers. Lol. But what is ‘true’, is found in meaning, I think. To my mind, many of the ancient ‘truths’ found in fairy tales are also found in modern day stories. They remain truths, I suppose, because their meaning is always stable. For instance, if you stray off the path, the big bad wolf will eat you. Today, there are tons of stories, take your pick, that focus on that theme. The ‘true’ moral is a caveat to the young to be cautious, not to be hasty, and to stick to the well-lit highways. There is no need of an anthropomorphized wolf to bring that message, although the wolf was more fun, and not nearly as frightening as some of the movies out there today. Lol. But I digress. So yes, I Luthi nailed it.

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    • Well, part of what I mean (and what I think Lüthi means) is that fairy tales aren’t “real” in the sense that what they describe really happened, or could or would happen. It’s the old thing about the witch dancing in red-hot shoes – it’s not a real person, it’s not real red-hot iron, there is no pain involved. But the truth of the story is there (and can’t just be stated in one sentence, and at any rate, shifts around).
      And you’re right, modern tales have those truths too, but not with the same clarity. Conversely, some of the most powerful modern stories are exactly as powerful because they’re really just retelling the old tales.

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