H. A. Byrd

Is Fantasy for Children?

Photo by Emmanuel Acua
Why does he march
Through that dream that he's in,
Covered with glory and rusty old tin?
—Man of La Mancha

In distant times, we heard songs and stories around the fire or the stove. Until relatively recently in human history this was the case worldwide, and some few cultures have retained this tradition. I have a great interest in stories and their importance in our world. Oral stories were for everyone, often incorporating simple lessons but also comedy for adults to enjoy. Traditionally, stories were told repeatedly and understood in different ways depending on a person’s mood and at different times of life. Many stories open doors to other realities for the purpose of learning how to live in this one.

It was when we started writing down stories that we segregated them into children’s literature or content for adults. In the early days of printing, old oral stories were published as children’s stories. It seems to me that the evolution of the western concept of childhood coincides very much with the evolution of the printed word. As printed material became more easily obtainable, and children’s literature became more accessible, the modern notion of childhood developed.

Our notion of childhood is useful. Children need protection and to be treated differently than adults. But do we go too far? Our society has a tragic divide between generations, causing all sorts of disconnection. One of the issues is that far too many people believe play and fantastic ideas are generally for children or the childish. How absurd! Imagination and romanticism feed the creativity that improves our lives.

So, here’s my advice to everyone on the planet: Be curious about life. Have interest in the world around you, the small things and the large. Consider smiling at strangers. Indulge your imagination. Be yourself! And maybe read a good, thought-provoking fantasy now and then.

Youth has no age.
—Pablo Picasso
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