Philip Pullman’s Grimm Fairy Tales

“Why does God feel so far from the magical world? Fairy tales are, after all, not anarchic; there is a strong moral compo­nent to many stories (the virtuous third son succeeds where his vice-ridden broth­ers have failed; secret sins are revealed gro­tesquely). In addition to law, there is some kind of law keeper, since justice is never more than a few pages away. Even as the physics of fairyland are alien and unpredictable, the just outcome is sure.

It sounds quotidian and dull to say you must not be cruel to the three old men because their human nature demands respect (and your own hu­manity demands you not deliberately coarsen it). It is more romantic to say that you must not be cruel to the three old men you meet in the wood because they may cause toads to fall from your mouth. In fairy tales, the natural law is enmeshed with the supernatural, which makes it just eldritch enough to be compelling again.”

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