Lies of Poets, Child, Lies of Poets

I like fairy tales. I like hero stories. I like them because, as G.K. Chesterton points out, they teach us something about reality. It teaches us that good and evil exist, really and truly, and that good can conquer evil, really and truly. Fairy tales are a tell-tale hymn of hope back of all our imaginations. We believe in the hero at high noon, we believe in the champion standing in the gap. We believe in dark nights giving way to bright dawns because everywhere we look the blueprint of such a story is staring us in the face.

I like fairy tales and hero stories, but when I write them I learn something. It's hard to write the hero. It's hard to write the fairy. I know. My hero, my fairy, they have to be looked at from the outside because what goes on inside them is so inscrutable. But is it? Is it really impossible for us to look inside?

I hear boys talk of the army and war like it's a grand thing. I hear people talk of police work like it's glory. And something inside of me aches when I hear their words because I know the hero, I know the fairy. I've written them. I've walked with them. I've stared in their eyes and seen the haunted looks, the half-conscious bitterness about their smiles. It isn't glory. It isn't grand. It's hard. Everything depends on the hero, the fate of the day hangs in the hands of the fairy, and that weighs. It isn't all backlight and modeling snapshots. It's hard. It's real.

From a distance we see them uplifted like some kind of pantheon, perfect, capable of taking anything on and winning the day. They always look strong. They never cry. We're not even sure if they can bleed. They seem to pass through the midst of this world without anything seeming to brush them. But if you get close, if you look into their eyes, you realize that isn't true. We write about the glory of a hero's victory and the courage of the fairy, but do we ever write about the pain? Do we ever write about the weight of responsibility, of the fear, of the heartache? Do we write those moments when despair gets its claws into the hero's heart and presses on his lungs like Apollyon's knee? Do we ever write about those moments when it is almost all the hero can do not to run and hide and cry like a child because everything depends on him, and because everything seems so impossible?

It's hard to write that kind of thing. It's almost indecent to bare someone's heart like that, even though it is just a character. But sometimes we need to know. Sometimes we need to hear that a hero believes, only he needs help in his unbelief. Sometimes we need to know that Jesus wept. Sometimes we need to know that life hurts the heroes too. We need to know that victory comes at a cost, and that cost leaves scars. Sometimes the struggle isn't for a world, or a people; sometimes it is for a family, for a single day, for the day after that, and the day after that. I know heroes, heroes that aren't made of ink but of flesh and blood, and they do bleed, and they do cry, and they hide it all away behind their faces that seem to be untouched by the winds of this world. But I know. I know they have heartache. I know they break and tear and unravel in their insides while they try to hold their world together around them. I know my heroes hurt, and somehow...somehow that makes them better heroes than before.

Do we know that? Being a hero isn't glory, it's guts. Being a hero isn't triumph, it's toil. Being a hero is hurting, being a hero is dying. It's written in the blueprint of the fairy tale, of the hero story, if only we look deep enough to see it. And after that we can remember that it is glory and triumph and healing and living, because that is written in the blueprint too.

truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone
but if it dies, it bears much fruit

11 ripostes:

  1. Yes. Yes. Yes and amen. The beauty of Christ knows no bounds, and we... we get to be imitators of that, in life and in writing and in the innumerable ways the two coincide and tangle and blend and become the other. Gah! Now I am homesick for your dining room table. Why must I live half a country away?

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  2. Dear Penslayer, this is very well-written and true. Even though I've written about a hero at length, I haven't explored his dark moments or the nature of this kind of sacrifice, except briefly. This I must do more fully when approaching another hero. The words of Jesus are so appropriate.

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  3. I LOVE this; it blends so well with all my thoughts on the subject. 'Being a hero isn't glory, it's guts.'
    Oh; and I love the picture of Ten and Rose :) It took me a second, though.
    ~ Mirriam

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  4. You don't have to live half a country away... Well, maybe you do, but I don't believe it. Denial ain't just a river, you know. And my dining room table, it is personsick for you too. It remembers the warm golden hours we spent around it reading together.

    Maria, I don't yet think that such exposure of the hero's soul ought to be a common theme, but I think it ought to be remembered. I don't know if it makes the deeps of a hero's soul any deeper, but I think it helps plumb them for us. To fear: how very like us. To do righteousness: how very divine. Which goes back to Anna's comment, as to that...

    Given the topic, Mirriam, I thought Ten rather apt, don't you think? There's a character who knows how to carry the weight of the world - worlds - on his shoulders, to grasp after the fabric of things while his whole being seems to unravel inside. I reckon that's why he has two hearts, personally: one of them is always getting broken.

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  5. A thoughtful response, Jenny. Hope it's okay that I included a link to your site with my other links. Keep going with your pensive prose, as you point others to the One who was human and feared, righteous, Divine, our actual real everlasting Hero.

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  6. I don't mind in the least, Maria. I am quite flattered that you would think of me. And thank you, too, for the encouragement. Encouragement never goes amiss with me.

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  7. You're absolutely right. Oh my word; one of them IS always getting broken! He has to have two hearts, minimum. Ten was very apt. I congratulate you. :)
    ~ Mirriam

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  8. Jenny, dear, I tagged you with a First Impressions tag (begun by me, and related to current works of literature) over at my blog. :) http://inkpenauthoress.blogspot.com/2011/12/first-impressions-getting-to-know-it.html There you go. :)

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