Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
— G. K. Chesterton
The name for this blog, Creeping Past Dragons, is a variant of a passage by C.S. Lewis, writing about creativity, the “Fairy Tale” form, and the power of fantasy to “steal past those watchful dragons” of normalcy or dogma in religion, in “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said” (1956, 1966 in Of Other Worlds):
In the Author’s mind there bubbles up every now and then the material for a story. For me it invariably begins with mental pictures. This ferment leads to nothing unless it is accompanied with the longing for a Form: verse or prose, short story, novel, play or what not. When these two things click you have the Author’s impulse complete. It is now a thing inside him pawing to get out. He longs to see that bubbling stuff pouring into that Form as the housewife longs to see the new jam pouring into the clean jam jar.
Lewis goes on to write how “the Fairy Tale seemed the ideal Form for the stuff I had to say,” and how it occurred to him that stories so clearly made of fantasy, perhaps, “could steal past certain inhibitions which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood.”
But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?
In a 2000 essay from her website, “Here Be Dragons,” Jane Yolen began by noting, with echoes of Chesterton, that:
Ursula Le Guin once remarked during a censorship battle that revolved around fantasy literature that we shouldn’t banish dragons from our stories because then we banish the possibility of St. George.
Yolen added: “I would like to remind us that while dragons are mythical, they are also metaphoric. They stand for something beyond the page and beyond the actual story.”
In her own essay on the subject, “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (included in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1992), Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, in a critique of American society that tried to reject fantasies with dragons, that nonetheless the dragon:
is alive: terribly alive. . . . It frightens us because it is part of us, and the artist forces us to admit it.
So . . . dare we try to creep past dragons?
Remember this advice from one who managed to pull it off, just barely:
Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo, you fool!
— Bilbo Baggins