The cover of Enchantment shows a woman at a circus leaning over a booth. For a long time I wondered why this cover seemed "right" and later realized it's because it depicts the irony of enchantment: At some point the spell is always broken. This applies to Rumpelstilskin, Snow White and classic fairy tales about three wishes that become horrific and must be unwished. It also applies to stories about a prince mastering impossible quests with the help of magic. "And they live happily ever after...." is a segue into a world that isn't magic.
This break in a spell is partially a literal break because it creates a gap, a transparency, and a window--through which we see the absurd and miraculous nature of human life. If you think about figure and ground, stories about enchantment always allow magic become to become figure--what you see in the foreground-- and the ordinary world recedes into the background. But this lasts only for a while. At some point a spell is broken: Then the ordinary world resumes its place as figure again and enchantment becomes a nearly-forgotten dream. This shift illuminates the human tension between the world of imagination and the world of everyday.
I think this happens in dreams as well....there's a liminal edge after sleep in which the dream fades and in that moment we traverse an elusive, strange--yet familiar--bridge.
I've wondered whether there ever could have been fairy tales if people hadn't dreamt.
What do you think?
(more about this will be in 1000+ stories soon)
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