It's because I still believe in the stories and fairy tales from my childhood that I get such joy breathing life into my own characters. My critique-mate Jennie Mayes shared this with me, and so I'm sharing it with you.
The Guardian Life & Style/Family 8/23/2013 -- By Jon Henley
Philip Pullman: 'Loosening the chains of the imagination'
The author, whose His Dark Materials trilogy alone has been translated into 40 languages and sold millions, talks about what children look for in stories
"If you want your children to be intelligent," Albert Einstein once remarked, "read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales." It is a sentiment with which Philip Pullman heartily agrees. Which is as well, because his latest bestseller is a highly acclaimed and high-voltage retelling of 50 Grimm brothers fairytales.
"Fairy stories," Pullman says, sitting on the sofa in his comfortable Oxfordshire farmhouse, "loosen the chains of the imagination. They give you things to think with – images to think with – and the sense that all kinds of things are possible. While at the same time being ridiculous or terrifying or consolatory. Or something else altogether, as well."
Not everyone of a scientific bent would, he concedes, necessarily concur. Richard Dawkins, for one, has said he is not at all sure of the effect on children of "bringing them up to believe in spells and wizards and magic wands and things turning into other things". It is all "very unscientific", Dawkins frets.
But Pullman, who is not only one of our greatest authors, for children and adults – His Dark Materials has sold more than 15m copies and been translated into 40 languages – but also a writer whose work teems with the paraphernalia of the folktale (witches, daemons, talking animals, magical objects), is firmly with Einstein. "Dawkins is wrong to be anxious," he says. "Frogs don't really turn into princes. That's not what's really happening. It's 'Let's pretend'; 'What if'; that kind of thing. It's completely harmless. On the contrary, it's helpful and encouraging to the imagination."
We are talking, a couple of weeks before the release of the paperback edition of the author's Grimm Tales for Young and Old, about fairy stories, and wondering just what it is about them that explains their enduring appeal for the young and the not-so-young. Later, the talk turns to stories in general, and why the reading and the telling of them is so extraordinarily important for children and their families. But first, fairytales. What makes them so special? (Continue reading on The Guardian)