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 once 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.
A helpful reminder about evil, and while we are on the topic of Chesterton, I noticed that several of his individual works are free on the Kindle, but there are a few sets of his works that are worth a look that cost only 99¢. The Classic British Literature series has this one: Works of G.K. Chesterton, 29 books in a single file with active table of contents. It is one of the best because it has an active table of contents. Also, don’t miss the new Chesterton volume: The Everyman Chesterton, edited by Ian Ker. It was just published on April 5, 2011, and it is 952 pages of the best of Chesterton.