08 January 2011

Of Knights, Dragons, and Princesses

I think children, at least the ones in my family, have to be the most creative creatures on earth. For example: my youngest sister is only two years old, and one of her very favourite things to do is play with her brothers' toy knights. These knights are each about two to three inches tall and outfitted with incredibly detailed armour and weapons, and our brothers collection also includes such characters as horses, pirates, faeries, princesses, and, of course dragons. The other day she was playing with these in the play room while a group of us older girls was working in the kitchen. In the course of her game, and entire troupe of knights on horseback made a journey from one end of the room to the other. In the course of this journey they were attacked by several dragons who, apparently, slaughtered the entire company. The horses of the fallen knights immediately let out a cry for help, yelling "Help! Save us! Princesses! Help us!" Almost as soon as they began this cry it was answered by a group of princesses from the castle who swiftly shooed the dragons away, mounted the horses, and rode them back to the castle singing "Jingle Bells" as they went.

Such storylines and others featuring even greater creativity are not uncommon in her games or in the games of the other children in my home. On a daily basis they invent fantasies worthy of any fairytale writer out of thin air, bending the rules of reality to their own little whims. True, their stories lack the complexity of a great novel, but they contain all of the raw imagination one could possibly desire. Mine were the same when I was little. I can remember spending hours in the car with my siblings constructing our own fantasy worlds and characters with complex histories, laws, and personalities all their own.

What happens to this imagination as we get older? And how is it that some people are able to retain and focus it to become great authors and storytellers while others seem to lose it entirely? Perhaps the key to being a truly great fiction author (at least of fantasy) is to foster and grow a connection with the imagination and wonder of the inner child and that same ability which allows children to enjoy games of make-believe that last for hours, days, or even weeks on end or to invent and maintain imaginary friends who each possess unique personalities and characters.

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