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Where have the little people gone?

“Every time a boy or girl says 'I don't believe in fairies', there is a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.”
-Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

They are growing up too fast these days.
You can tell from how fast they lose the baby-smile, the baby-laugh that comes only with innocence. You can tell from what they like to wear, from the secrets they whisper about with their comrades, from the movies they like to watch. You can tell from the stories they read. And you can tell from how you can't hear the fairies much anymore.

You don't see very many fairy stories in bookstores now. It is a shame, considering how, they create the foundation for children's literature. Think of old, battered, well thumbed anthologies of Perrault and Grimm and Andersen, with their pretty pictures the classic folk tales that our parents grew up with, the bedtime stories we listened to a few years back. How common are those bedtime stories now, I wonder? You hear of them, true; but you hear less and less, save one or two of the better-known ones, which they turn into movies like “A Cinderella Story” and “Sydney White”. Not quite the stuff of children's tales, I'm sad to say. The books themselves, it seems, have become antiquated. One hardly sees a decent collection in this day and age. Certainly not with as many pretty pictures.

And what of Enid Blyton? The Queen of Children's Literature would likely turn in her grave if she knew how people regard her fairyland today. You see the same recurring school stories, Secret Sevens and Famous Fives in every other bookshop. All very well, those stories always deserve a place in society. But when yours truly looks through her fairytales, it brings to mind questions: honestly, where have they gone? Where has the Fairies' Shoemaker gone, from his little stall on that sunny country road? Is Pip the pixie truly done with discovering Nature's secrets? Has the Wishing Chair folded up its wings for good? And, most importantly, why does no one bother to find them out these days?

I had faith in Harry Potter, not too long ago. We were both children together, after all. His world wasn't Enid Blyton's Fairyland but there was a new sort of charm in it, which wouldn't change with my growing up. But then Harry had to go and grow up too. And we all know how magic slowly fades into the background as you grow up. Back when I was 8, they were levitating feathers and riding centaurs. These days I watch 8-year-old cousins giggle over Harry's disastrous date with Cho Chang (who makes me squirm) and Ron and Lavender's 'snogging scenes' (which makes me retch). They may find a different appeal in those stories but never again will it be magic pure and simple.

Our old favourites haven't disappeared; they have been shunted out of the mainstream market by the new. If you care to look, chances are you will find those very fairytales, pretty pictures and all, on some dusty corner shelf. The trouble is, though, one outgrows those on reading Jacqueline Wilson and Stephenie Meyer. After all, what is the fantasy of gnomes and dryads against the reality of illustrated mums and the allure of vegetarian vampire boyfriends?

Too young do you stop believing in fairies. Too soon do you trade in your Neverland for the likes of those other worlds seemingly closer to your own and miss out on so, so much. The tragedy is that you realize it 10 years too late, if at all. And, all the while, the number of fairies, of innocence incarnate, in the world becomes smaller and smaller.

Little brother, little sister, grow up, do, but not too fast. Or the fairies will all die.

By Risana Nahreen Malik

Photo Feature

Haven't we all faced the sheer impossibility of making words illustrate the simplest feelings or the deepest emotions which we carry in our hearts? Isn't our inability to measure their depths one of the reasons why they are so beautifully weird? We try, through art and literature, through smiles and tears, and yet can never truly express exactly how much we love someone. The desperation to show and the restlessness to see the human emotions often create unexplainable magical feelings in our minds. It's probably just the blurry sense of magnitude which makes love, faith and even pain so strangely beautiful.

Photo by Mutasim Billah Pritam

Book Review


Last week, we looked at the second book in Meg Cabot's 'Boy' series. This week, we were supposed to go in for the third, but then yours truly encountered this shiny paperback copy of Terry Pratchett, and there was just no stopping her.

Sir Terence Jon David Pratchett, better known around the globe as Terry Pratchett, author of the famous Discworld series, received his knighthood earlier this year. Jingo is his twenty-first Discworld novel, and the fifth in the City Watch story arc.

A quick background for the unitiated, the Discworld, is a disc-shaped universe, borne on the backs of four elephants that stand on the back of the Great Turtle A'Tuin. The stories are mostly set in the rambling city of Ankh-Morpokh, which, readers will find, bears a startling resemblance to Dhaka.

The story begins with the ancient island of Leshp rising out of the sea, whereby sailors from Ankh Morpokh and its neighbouring country Klatch immediately, and simultaneously lay claim to it. What begins as a minor dispute between two individuals quickly escalates into a diplomatic crisis, as the strategic importance and abundance of resources of the island come into public knowledge. Battle lines are drawn, with communal strife running rife, where Klatchian-born Morpokhians are discriminated against because of their brown skins and turbans (sounds familiar?) The situation is worsened with an assassination attempt on the Klatchian Ambassador in Ankh-Morpokh. Just when things are heating up, the Patrician goes AWOL, and Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, is left trying to hold together a fragile peace.

What follows is a tongue-in-cheek tale of political and cultural satire, studded with laughs and threaded with enough suspense to keep you turning pages till the end. As far as style goes, Pratchett remains his sardonic and dark humorous self, wielding his descriptive phrases like a weapon. There are surprises even for people who are familiar with the characters as everyone, from Sgt Colon to even the Patrician shows a few new colours in the face of stress. Pratchett is rather bold in his exploration of the themes of racial discrimination, jingoism and the kind of hypocrisy that exists in the delicate dance of diplomacy. From adventure, to suspense, from romance to comedy, this book has a little bit of everything, and is a must read.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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