“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”
I am an avid lover of stories. Books, yes, but more so, the stories. Even ones that aren’t in books. Don’t we all love a good story told around a campfire, or the old, old stories in books that are so old that there’s no cover art, just the title and the author’s name on the spine. So what makes these stories so great? What makes them so intriguing and engaging, so timeless? Why is there so much shared substance between stories from all over the place? Why are the same stories recycles countless times, but still read and adored by thousands, or even millions, of people around the world?
We love them because they tell us something.
They start with someone who’s just like us: an imperfect human being with imperfect desires and actions, and an imperfect life. So we’re attracted to this person because here’s something of ourselves that we see in them.
And the story goes on to tell of this person’s actions, and the actions of those around them. And at some point, there comes to be tension, pain, anguish, anger, hurt.
Our favorite stories are ones full of darkness, betrayal, and tragedy. The ones full of giants, monsters, and dragons, and despair and hopelessness.
Because these stories mirror our own lives. We too face darkness, betrayal and tragedy. We too face our own giants, monsters, and dragons that fill us with hopeless despair. But we love these stories because they show us somebody, maybe a fictional somebody but still someone, who’s faced these things before.
Even more than that, they show us someone who fought their dragon, who fought back the clouds of hopelessness that hung heavily over them, and fought until the dragon was dead, and the sun shone. Until they won.
And for some reason, the sun is always brighter after the darkness passes.
And those are the stories that we attach ourselves to. Those are the ones we tell and retell. Those are the ones we tell our friends to pick up. They’re the ones that stick around for years and years, because they tell people something.
What do they tell?
They tell us that every dragon has to die. Every cloud will pass, every giant will be slain, every mountain crushed. They tell us that when there is darkness, fighting it is always right even when the battle seems lost.
And they tell us that ordinary people, like ourselves, were the ones who killed the dragon. They tell us that we too can defeat the dragon that’s staring us down. We can be heroes too.
“How many brave or chivalrous deeds have come about through a young boy’s fascination with childhood stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the round table? Or how many injustices were attacked by those who learned right and wrong from Robin Hood?”
-Charles de Lint, The Little Country
What is a story that you love(d)? Was it a childhood story, or one you read later in life? Why did you love it? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter (@MrsAlenaeous).