As a child, I watched fairies flitter among the flowers. I heard ghosts whisper between my ears. I felt clawed witch-fingers slither up my spine whenever I walked by certain houses. If I held my breath and flapped my arms really, really hard, I could fly. My toys came alive when I was out of the room; I tried to catch them but never could. I had conversations with squirrels and neighborhood dogs. My childhood world was full of magic and adventure as real to me as dragonflies and my own thoughts, cranky old ladies and dreams.
That mysterious world of what might be got misplaced sometime between childhood and adolescence. As I grew and learned to see with adult eyes, the magic faded. The titles of my stories went from The Fire-breathing Dragon, to Luck is Only for Winners. From magic to mundane, all in a few years of growing up.
No wonder Peter Pan fought it.
In the summer of 1979, I was fifteen years old and spent many a-lazy hour reading, sprawled on a thick limb of a tree in my yard. I found my lust for Harlequin Romances waning. I was too old for childhood favorites like Pippi and Ramona and Harriet. A couple years earlier, Star Wars started me itching for something…something I almost remembered…
I went to the library where, within the seemingly infinite possibilities, nothing looked interesting. I remember absently thumbing through the books on the nickel shelf. Tattered, one and all. I spotted a blue cover. No dust jacket. Bent pages, frayed corners, broken spine. Gold letters etched into it.
The Once and Future King.
The title scratched my itch; the story blew my teenage mind. All that magic left in childhood came rushing back as Wart and Sir Kaye. A sword. A stone. Merlin and Nimue. Guinevere and Arthur and Lancelot. Did I get all the metaphor? All the symbolism? Hell, no! But I found the way back to the magic, the mystery, the possibilities you need the space behind your eyes to see.
I found Bilbo and Gandalf. Frodo and Sam. Lady Amalthea and Schmendrick; Thomas Covenant and Lord Foul; Garion and Belgarath and Polgara; Ged and Earthsea; Xanth and Dragonlance. I razed these worlds of words, went back for more and more, right up to this very day, more.
We are all born with that sense of wonder, the knowledge that there truly is a whole mysterious world, indeed, many mysterious worlds of what might be. Some keep the knowledge all their lives. Some lose it and never find it again. Some, like me, only misplace it, and are lucky enough find it again.
And then, there are those few of us who take the next step; we create our own mysterious worlds of what might be. We send them out into the world to ignite that sense of wonder and whimsy in others. It's our own sort of omnipotence, creating worlds. A form of immortality. And it’s love, pure love. For me, that is why fantasy.
What is your love story?