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The Wolf of Tebron ~ Conditional Joy

What really got me started on writing fairy tales--specifically, not fantasy, but fairy tales--was reading what G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy. He says that fairy tales stand out from other genres and even fantasy in general due to what he calls "The doctrine of conditional joy." Fairy tales always present a nearly incomprehensible happiness that rests on a difficult and often impossible condition or task that must be accomplished or avoided. Oftentimes the task makes no sense--like you can win the princess's hand if you do not say the word onion. Or if you pluck a chicken feather on a full moon, you will lose the kingdom. Many fairy tales begin with a quest. Either a young adult sets out on a journey or mission, then encounters many trials and tests to reveal their character. Often the one thought of as stupid or incompetent, but who has a good heart, wins out over the sibling that has smarts and courage but no integrity.

Fairy tales are often full of moral admonition, sometimes obvious, sometimes not. In The Wolf of Tebron, Joran sets out to find his wife, who has disappeared in a whisk of magic. He must solve riddles, endure hardships, and look deep within to find truth. He is told that if he seeks specifically for happiness, he will not find it. But if he seeks truth, he just might find happiness in doing so. This is what C. S. Lewis speaks about in Mere Christianity. By faithfully doing what must be done, he succeeds in his quest, even though the things asked of him seem impossible, and he truly believes happiness in incomprehensible and unattainable.

“We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment…Here I am only trying to describe the enormous emotions which cannot be described. And the strongest emotion was that life was as precious as it was puzzling. It was an ecstasy because it was an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity...it was good to be in a fairy tale… Well, I left fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since.”G.K. Chesterton

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