Monsters and Other Fairy Tales

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Mac Clayton says fantastical thinking isn’t just for kids. Adults make frequent use of it, too.

When my children were very young, they believed in monsters. To reassure them I held up the covers and shone a light to show them there is nothing under the bed. But I also told them fairy tales about creatures who adored them: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy. These were harmless fictions, I thought, fantasies they would outgrow soon enough on their way to a world of no magic, no illusions about what is real and what is not.

That passage into adulthood is bittersweet. Once lost, the innocence and credulity of childhood are gone forever.

Or are they?

Sometimes as we grow older up we find new fantasies to hold onto. We seem to have a powerful, instinctive urge to believe in something magical, something that will bring us gifts not because of anything we have done, just because of who we are.


This is why both as children and as adults we accept things people tell us that may seem fantastical but that we want to believe, things that hold out the promise of presents under the tree and coins under our pillows.

If we meet an adult who still believes in Santa Claus we’re more than likely pretty sure he is not playing with a full deck. And yet how many of us still cling to fairy tales?

There is the one about how everything will be all right if we can just get the monsters out from under the bed, or at least keep them on the other side of the border.

And the one about how if we give our tax dollars to the rich man selling magic beans we'll get a beanstalk we can climb to a basket of golden eggs.

Don’t build your house of straw, the wolf will blow it down. Put a wall around it.

Hop up on the fox’s back and let him carry you across the stream.

What could go wrong? After all, it’s only a fairy tale.

With a Perspective, I’m Mac Clayton.

Mac Clayton lives on the Peninsula.