Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Remember 398.2 when a library beast says that fairies aren't real


"If you believe," he shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die."
    Many clapped.
    Some didn't.
    A few beasts hissed.

- from Chapter 13: Do You Believe In Fairies? in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie


For the category of "beasts that hissed", I nominate the library person who told the young daughter of a friend of mine, yesterday, "You won't find books about fairies in nonfiction because fairies aren't real."
    My friend described this beast as a "librarian". However, a true librarian I know can't believe that any real librarian could have made such a statement. Why? Because besides being mean-spirited it is just plain wrong.
    Any trained librarian ought to know that under the Dewey system, fairytales are to be found under call # 398.2, which is NONFICTION
. You might be sitting at a librarian's desk, but if you don't know that, you are not a librarian.
     There are other things any good librarian would know, starting with the fact that there is a whole library of intriguing nonfiction books about fairytales (not forgetting that fairytales are themselves nonfiction!) In the English language, it starts with Robert Kirk's amazing Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, written by an Anglican minister in Scotland in 1691. The list extends through W.B.Yeats' commentaries in his anthology of Irish Fairytales and Folklore, W.B. Evans-Wentz's remarkable The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, replete with the narratives of the old ones from the Isle of Man to Brittany, through the investigations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the scholarship of Katharine Briggs, the archetypal inquiries of Marie-Louise von Franz, and the spirited mythic work of John and Caitlin Matthews.
     A good librarian would also know how fairytales have fired the imagination of tremendous creative writers. C.S.Lewis declared that George MacDonald was his "master" and that MacDonald's Phantastes: A Farie Romance "baptized" his imagination. The beloved Color Fairy Books collected by Scottish scholar and folklorist Andrew Lang have fueled the imaginations of thousands of writers as well as millions of children.
     My friend's daughter went home in tears after the hissing beast in her library told her that fairies aren't real. What to do? I suggested she should be sure to carry that Dewey call # with her as a charm next time she goes to that library. 398.2.
    We might all make a wish that any bright spirit who is available should help to rescue the child in that library person who has been locked up in some Land of Lost Girls and Boys, and let her back into her mind and heart and imagination.
    Oh, yes. And any time some hissing beast tells us that fairies aren't real, we must clap our hands immediately.

4 comments:

Fresh Water Mermaids said...

Bravo, Robert.

Fairies are real. I am one.

And I feel very real.

Except of course, when no one is left around me who believes in me.

And even then, though I feel so very invisible in such moments, I am still real.

Thank you for clapping your hands!

Minerva said...

Well done, Robert!

Minerva said...

Well done, Robert!

Sarah Tobias said...

While you are correct about fairies, your reasoning is not completely sound. The Dewey Decimal system is not just for cataloging non-fiction, it is a library cataloging system for all books. The 800 section is all fiction, literature and poetry. 398.2 is the section for folk and fairy tales. The 200's are for religion. I all, there are some definite truths, but their Dewey number is not that proof. Form a librarian who believes in 398.2 and helping people understand the library world.