The Quote Garden ™
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Quotations about Fairy Tales
Welcome to my page of quotations about fairy tales. Once upon a time, there was a curious young girl who became enchanted with words. She always spent up her leisure with her nose in olden books, and the dashing Prince of Literature swept her off her feet. She's still living happily ever after in the library, and bids you entrance to her magical collection.
READING IN BED,
Nobody is too old for fairy tales. ~Author unknown
But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. ~C. S. Lewis
Spring blossoms are fairy tales, autumn leaves are tragic dramas. ~Mehmet Murat ildan
I fancy that at the beginning some fairy may have offered me the choice between great power and station and the privilege of living always among books, and that I, like the good child in the fairy tale, chose the latter. ~James L. Whitney, "Reminiscences of an Old Librarian," November 1909 [Whitney credits the idea for his statement to Andrew Lang's "Ballade of the Bookworm." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet, and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,
Thy loving smile will surely hail
The love-gift of a fairy-tale...
"Nothing can be truer than fairy wisdom," said Fred. "It is true as sunbeams; and though you cannot coin 'em into golden coin—and then count 'em and weigh 'em—they are true, true as light." ~Douglas Jerrold, "Our Honeymoon: An Apology and An Explanation," in Punch, Vol xxiv, 1853
I prefer Grimm's fairy tales to the newspapers' front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
~Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), "Possibilities," 1997, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak
October, shot with flashing rays and rains,
Inhabits all his pulses; he shall know
The stress and splendor of the roaring gales,
The creaking boughs shall croon him fairy tales,
And the sea's kisses set his blood aglow,
While in his ears the eternal bugles blow.
~May Gillington Byron (1861–1936), "The Storm-Child"
Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale. ~Author unknown
Life, after all, is the most lovely of fairy tales, and I often ask myself, with heart-felt emotion, Why does God grant me so much happiness? Where all is given one cannot be proud, one can only bow the head in humility and thankfulness. ~Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875), quoted in Hans Christian Andersen: A Biography by R. Nisbet Bain, 1895, Chapter XV: "The Last Days of 'The Good Old Poet'"
I only tell fairy-tales (said the Philosopher) for I would rather be seen in their sober vestments than in the prismatic unlikelihood of reality. ~Christina Stead, "Lemonias," The Salzburg Tales, 1934
The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost. ~J.R.R. Tolkien, "Fairy-Stories," 1939
This is not simply a story about a frog and a prince. A story about a frog would be biological. A story about a prince would be historical. But a story about a frog-prince is magical and therein lies all the difference. The magical story is not a microscope but a mirror, not a drop of water but a well. It is not simply one thing or two, but a multitude. It is at once lucid and opaque, it accepts both dark and light, speaks to youth and old age. ~Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood, 1981
My darling child! beside my knee
She lingers, pleading low
For "just one more sweet fairy tale,
And then I'll let you go!"
~Frances S. Osgood, "The Talisman"
I find that there really are human beings who think fairy tales bad for children... that fairy tales ought not to be taught to children even if they are true... because it frightens them... If you kept bogies and goblins away from children they would make them up for themselves. One small child in the dark can invent more hells than Swedenborg. One small child can imagine monsters too big and black to get into any picture, and give them names too unearthly and cacophonous to have occurred in the cries of any lunatic... The fear does not come from fairy tales; the fear comes from the universe of the soul.
The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone... Fairy tales do not give a 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.
Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies... that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear... the point of the story and the point of the reader's feelings is not that these things were frightening, but the far more striking fact that the hero was not frightened at them. The most fearful of all these fearful wonders was his own absence of fear. He slapped the bogies on the back and asked the devils to drink wine with him...
At the four corners of a child's bed stand Perseus and Roland, Sigurd and St. George. If you withdraw the guard of heroes you are not making him rational; you are only leaving him to fight the devils alone. ~G. K. Chesterton, "The Red Angel," Tremendous Trifles, 1909
I do not think man was meant to enjoy such easily attained, unmixed happiness. I have often fancied that true happiness is like the palaces in fairy tales from our childhood, where fiery dragons defend the entrance, and monsters of all shapes and kinds must be overcome ere victory is ours. ~Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870), Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, 1845 (Edmond Dantès) [Note: This is my rendering of a few different translations, from the French; all had anonymous translators. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
Every person's father is a dragon — and also a dragon slayer, the two eternal opposites. Only very special fathers have the ability to integrate the two sides, and only very special children can actually see that integration. Mother and stepmother, godmother and witch, hero and villain, over and over the contrapuntal dance goes on. And so the children in their turn become dragons — and dragon slayers. That is why stories about dragons, about heroes, about the other worlds, speak so strongly to us, adults and children, in whatever skin we inhabit. ~Jane Yolen, "The Mask on the Lapel," Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood, 1981
Far away in the land of "If and Perhaps"
The city of "Make-Believe" lies,
With its wonderful, beautiful towers and domes
And turrets that reach the skies;
'Tis peopled by fairies, pixies, and gnomes,
And nobles and ladies fair,
And the poorest gamin that walks the streets
Is a prince if he enters there...
~Cynthia M. McCague, "The City of Make-Believe," in The Outlook, 1898
Parenthood has its brightness. For one thing you can renew your acquaintance with fairies, something you are supposed to have dropped but have discreetly hidden in a cherished corner. Now it can come out, especially at story-telling time, and enjoy seeing the child on your knee grow starry-eyed, touched by the magic and mystery of another world, where no fear, no hurt, and only a few choice grown-ups like father, may enter. ~Angelo Patri, 1924 [a little altered —tg]
When Mother takes the Fairy Book
And we curl up to hear,
'T is "All aboard for Fairyland!"
Which seems to be so near.
For soon we reach the pleasant place
Of Once Upon a Time,
Where birdies sing the hour o' day,
And flowers talk in rhyme;
Where Bobby is a velvet Prince,
And where I am a Queen;
Where one can talk with animals,
And walk about unseen;
Where Little People live in nuts,
And ride on butterflies,
And wonders kindly come to pass
Before your very eyes...
It is the nicest time of day —
Though Bedtime is so near, —
When Mother takes the Fairy Book
And we curl up to hear.
~Abbie Farwell Brown (1875–1927), "The Fairy Book," A Pocketful of Posies, 1902 ["Just before bed we travel instead to Fairy Land where strange things happen all the time..." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]
In fairyland we avoid the word "law"; but in the land of science they are singularly fond of it.... The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment." They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. ~G.K. Chesterton, "The Ethics of Elfland," Orthodoxy
King Skeptic wears his modern crown, his stern, destructive law prevails; he's tearing all our idols down, disproving all our fav'rite tales. Is there a legend you hold dear, some legend of the long ago? King Skeptic hears it with a sneer, and digs up history to show that things of that sort never chanced, and never could, and never will. "We have," he says, "so much advanced, that fairy tales don't fill the bill. No faked-up tales of knightly acts, no Robin Hood romance for me; the only things worth while are Facts, Statistics, and the Rule of Three."
With diagrams he shows full well that old-time tales are things to scorn; that such a man as William Tell, in likelihood, was never born... And so it goes; you can't relate a legend of heroic acts but that the Skeptic then will state objections based on Deadly Facts. Romance is but a total loss, and all the joy of life departs... ~Walt Mason, "Iconoclasm," Rippling Rhymes To Suit the Times, 1913
Novels are to love as fairy tales to dreams. ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), lecture on Don Quixote, Cervantes
Don't ask questions of fairy tales. ~Jewish folk saying
'Tis well to give honour and glory to age,
With its lessons of wisdom and truth;
Yet who would not go back to the fanciful page,
And the fairy tale read but in youth?
~Eliza Cook, "Stanzas," Melaia, and Other Poems, 1840
"Always remember," the storyteller told the wide-eyed children, "once-upon-a-time in a tale also means Now." ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
You and I, perhaps, have grown out of fairy stories long ago. And I will assert that nearly every one of us grows out of it too soon. It was not our fault — it was our misfortune that elder people, who should have known better, stole the fairies from us. They knew but one world, these elders, and they had forgotten the joy of living in two.
Many, I know, hold it harmful to keep children too long living in the realm of faëry. They say it helps to make a woolgathering habit of mind, and so in time unfits the adult for the practical work of life. All of which I firmly believe to be wrong. Never did men and women have more need of a refuge in the exercise of poetic imagination than in this bustling age; and the happiest people I know are those who keep a keen delight in poetry and the things that are only to be seen by an inner eye.
There is a connection between the fairyland of youth and the poetry of mature years. Let a child but keep hold long enough of the gossamer thread that runs back into the realm of faëry, and in time it may join on to the world of higher poetic fancy. ~John Crawley, "The Realm of Faery," Reveries of a Father, 1924 [a little altered —tg]
O the old trundle-bed where I slept when a boy!
What canopied king might not covet the joy?...
Its snowy-white sheets, and the blankets above,
Smoothed down and tucked round with the touches of love;
The voice of my mother to lull me to sleep
With the old fairy stories my memories keep
Still fresh as the lilies that bloom o'er the head
Once bowed o'er my own in the old trundle-bed.
~James Whitcomb Riley, "The Old Trundle-Bed"
A few years ago the fairy story was regarded as peculiarly the property of young people, but this can no longer be said to be true. The subject has now become almost an exact science, and the origin of many of the stories a matter of study and inquiry as keen as the most important branches of historic doubt. So long as men like Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Andrew Lang take up the subject there will be no want of grown-up readers, and their books will continue to receive their proper position on the bookshelves of both old and young. ~"Our Note-Book," The Bookworm: An Illustrated Treasury of Old-Time Literature, 1893
Now and again some anxious, troubled soul fears that fairy tales will harm the children. Children need fairy tales because they are the purest product of the highest kind of imagination. The lovely thing about them is exactly that they are so far removed from the actual world and so close to that better, fairer one where children dwell. ~Angelo Patri, 1924
We may assume that we are not singular in entertaining a very great tenderness for the fairy literature of our childhood. What enchanted us then, and is captivating a million of young fancies now, has, at the same blessed time of life, enchanted vast hosts of men and women who have done their long day's work, and laid their grey heads down to rest. It would be hard to estimate the amount of gentleness and mercy that has made its way among us through these slight channels. Forbearance, courtesy, consideration for the poor and aged, kind treatment of animals, the love of nature, abhorrence of tyranny and brute force — many such good things have been first nourished in the child's heart by this powerful aid. It has greatly helped to keep us, in some sense, ever young, by preserving through our worldly ways one slender track not overgrown with weeds, where we may walk with children, sharing their delights.
In an utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that Fairy tales should be respected. Our English red tape is too magnificently red ever to be employed in the typing up of such trifles, but every one who has considered the subject knows full well that a nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun. The theatre, having done its worst to destroy these admirable fictions — and having in a most exemplary manner destroyed itself, its artists, and its audiences, in that perversion of its duty — it becomes doubly important that the little books themselves, nurseries of fancy as they are, should be preserved. To preserve them in their usefulness, they must be as much preserved in their simplicity, and purity, and innocent extravagance, as if they were actual fact...
The Vicar of Wakefield was wisest when he was tired of being always wise. The world is too much with us, early and late. Leave this precious old scape from it, alone. ~Charles Dickens, "Frauds on the Fairies," 1853 [of editing fairy tales into propaganda, infusing political content and "propagating the doctrines of Total Abstinence, Prohibition of the sale of spirituous liquors, Free Trade, and Popular Education," particularly as done by George Cruikshank —tg]
This pretty, fanciful, fairy story, with margins appropriately illuminated with tall poppies and butterflies and fairy-rings, is dedicated to a little girl who has not forgotten how to wonder.... Such delectable characters as the Fairy Wonder and the Poppy Goblin, the Pink Elf, the Lovesome Fairies, flit thru the pages and down the poppy-stalks; there are always plenty of marvels and flocks of fairies in "The Wood-That-Is-Not-There"... the adventures of Old-fashioned Jane in her quest for the other side of the rainbow are depicted with a light touch like the brush of a thread of gossamer against the cheek as one walks thru a summer wood. ~Of The Other Side of the Rainbow by Florence Bone, 1910 (Eaton & Mains, New York), "Literature," The Independent, 1911 February 9th
at the edge of the fairy-tale the night knits roses...
the roses walk on porcelain streets and from the tangle of their years knit one star after another...
death devours one year after another...
~Jean Arp, "roses walk on porcelain streets," 1930, translated by Ralph Manheim, 1948
When you tell your own fairy tale, you create your own magic. ~Terri Guillemets, "Once Upon a Now," 2004
We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high... ~Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, 2011
Life isn't a fairy tale. If you lose your shoe at midnight, you're probably just drunk. ~Author unknown
Life is not a fairy tale. If you lose your shoe at midnight, chance are you will be walking home barefoot. ~Author unknown
...there is no true end to any fairy-tale... ~J.R.R. Tolkien, "Fairy-Stories," 1939
published 2004 Jan 4
revised 2006, 2016, 2021
last saved 2022 Jul 11