“I dig old books.” ™
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.
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 (lecture), 1947 (print essay)
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. ~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"
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. ~G.K. Chesterton
Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. ~Neil Gaiman
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.
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. ~Jane Yolen, "The Mask on the Lapel"
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 March 12th
Every man's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers. ~Hans Christian Andersen
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..."
I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale. ~Marie Curie
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
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
The magical story is not a microscope but a mirror, not a drop of water but a well.... It is at once lucid and opaque, it accepts both dark and light, speaks to youth and old age.... This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Not the smaller dreams that you and I have each night, rehearsals of things to come, anticipation or dread turned into murky symbols, pastiches of traumas just passed. These are the larger dreams of humankind, a patchwork of all the smaller dreams stitched together by time. ~Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood, 1981
'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
Fairie tales change reality to magic and vice versa. ~Terri Guillemets, "The Magic of Believing," 2006
A fairy tale is the kind of story in which one king goes to another king to borrow a cup of sugar. ~Angela Carter (1940–1992)
"Always remember," the storyteller told the wide-eyed children, "once-upon-a-time in a tale also means Now." ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
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
Years ago, fairy tales all began with "Once upon a time" — now we know they all begin with, "If I am elected." ~Carolyn Warner
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
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
It's no coincidence that just at this point in our insight into our mysteriousness as human beings struggling towards compassion, we are also moving into an awakened interest in the language of myth and fairy tale. The language of logical arguments, of proofs, is the language of the limited self we know and can manipulate. But the language of parable and poetry, of storytelling, moves from the imprisoned language of the provable into the freed language of what I must, for lack of another word, continue to call faith. ~Madeleine L'Engle
At every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss. ~Paulo Coelho
The fairy tale, which to this day is the first tutor of children because it was once the first tutor of mankind, secretly lives on in the story. The first true storyteller is, and will continue to be, the teller of fairy tales. Whenever good counsel was at a premium, the fairy tale had it, and where the need was greatest, its aid was nearest. This need was created by myth. The fairy tale tells us of the earliest arrangements that mankind made to shake off the nightmare which myth had placed upon its chest. ~Walter Benjamin
Religions are the great fairy tales of conscience. ~George Santayana
When we walk, holding stories in us, do they touch the ground through our footprints? What is this power of metaphor, by which we liken a thing we see to a thing we imagine or have seen before — the granite crag to an old crystalline heart — changing its form, allowing animation to suffuse the world via inference? Metaphor, perhaps, is the tame, the civilised, version of shamanic shapeshifting, word-magic, the recognition of stories as toothed messengers from the wilds. What if we turned the old nursery rhymes and fairytales we all know into feral creatures once again, set them loose in new lands to root through the acorn fall of oak trees? What else is there to do, if we want to keep any of the wildness of the world, and of ourselves? ~Sylvia Linsteadt, "Turning Our Fairytales Feral Again"
Don't worry about falling in love because in fairy tales, they don't find each other until the last page. ~Author unknown
"Happily ever after" depends on where we choose to end the story. ~Author unknown
[T]here is no true end to any fairy-tale... ~J.R.R. Tolkien, "Fairy-Stories," 1939 (lecture), 1947 (print essay)