Five authors of mystical fancy for children: a critical study
By: James Edward Higgins
Published: 1965
Uploaded: 10/19/2006
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations
Tags: Children's Literature, History and criticism

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Description/Abstract:
This is a critical study of the works for children of five authors: George MacDonald, W. H. Hudson, Antoine de Saint-ExupTry, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
These five authors have been most often classified as fantasists. This study, therefore, not only intends critically to evaluate the individual contribution each of them has made to childrenÆs literature in general, but it also attempts to identify those elements of their works which single them out as a distinct group of fantasists. This distinct quality of their work is called mystical fancy.
The major procedure is a critical assessment of the books themselves. They are studied in a systematic and thorough manner, not in the sense of scientific analysis, but rather in the sense that aesthetic appreciation and literary criticism requires a certain discipline of method. Other kinds of information are used, but only insofar as this information is relevant to the particular work or works under discussion.
This supportive information is gathered from: material written by the authors themselves in which they express their opinions and discuss their endeavors in the field of writing for children; adult novels of mystical fancy written by the same authors; biographical resources; correspondence with one of the authors, C. S. Lewis.
Concerning the individual authors, this study finds: George MacDonald is strongly influenced by his faith in a loving God, and he expresses through his stories, At the Back of the North Wind, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie and The Light Princess and Other Fairy Tales, the wonder and magic of GodÆs goodness as it is found in the world of men.
W. H. HudsonÆs A Little Boy Lost is one of the few masterpieces of nature fancy for children. Hudson captures the spiritual reality of the childÆs world, and explores the grandeur and mysteries of nature.
The famous French aviator-author, Antoine de Saint-ExupTry, has dared in his slender book, The Little Prince, to take young readers into a world of spiritual mystery where æmatters of consequenceÆ are revealed in a new light.
J. R. R. Tolkien, renowned philologist and skilled storyteller, in ôThe Hobbit, brings his readers back to the time when man attempted to explore the meaning of the cosmos through stories which are now called myths or legends.
C. S. Lewis, greatly influenced by George MacDonald, surpasses his predecessor in the ability to blend Christian myth with exciting narrative as exemplified in his seven Chronicles of Narnia.
From the study of these five writers of mystical fancy, for purposes of this study it is concluded that a story of mystical fancy is recognized by the following characteristics:: it appeals more to the heart than to the mind, and the truth of the story is found more through faith and feeling than through empirical knowledge; it demands an intuitively contemplative communion between book and reader; it accepts the reality of a spiritual world; it reaches for a hidden universal beyondness; it abounds with a feeling of joyful sadness.


Sponsor: Leland B. Jacobs
Dissertation Committee: Mildred L. Fairchild
Degree: Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University