books, community, family, Fantasy fiction, Mental Health, reading

The Fictional World

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So, at my house, it is probably way too early to be drafting a post… And it is quite wet and miserable outside, and in a way I can’t even be glad it’s Saturday, because I still have the usual responsibilities relating to runts… And considering that such things as children interacting inappropriately with cats are conspiring against my determination to read x number of pages in Ghostly Echoes, this gets me thinking:

Why do I prefer fictional worlds so much to the real one?

Oh, on a morning like this, it’s easy to see why. It’s rained all night, and most of the autumn leaves have collapsed, soaked and no longer so vibrant, to the pavement. My electric kettle is dying (I discovered it leaking — a lot — yesterday). Last night was the third night in a row Muffin gave me some serious guff about going to bed. Moments like these are not what fairytales are made of.

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And yet, when we read fiction — whether it be realistic or fantasy, contemporary or historical — often we find the characters in much worse situations than our own. After all, being an orphan or locked in a tower really makes the kettle issue pale in comparison. However, there are days when I would like to totally immerse myself in a fictional world and not come out for a while.

Partly it’s because the real world never stops moving — and frequently I feel like I’m left behind, on the wayside, kind of confused and not with much chance of catching up. When I read a book, if something starts to be overwhelming, I can simply close the book and walk away until I’m ready to deal with it. Or, if it’s just too much, I can simply return the book to the library, or give it to a charity shop. I don’t have to keep struggling with it.

Fictional worlds are the best because, while they most of the time do reflect the place we live in, they also provide something extra — a bit of literal magic, of possibilities that take us away from the mundane, from the completely known, from the expected.

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We have an open visitor’s pass to these worlds. If we don’t like where we’ve landed, we can head out just as soon as we wish. We can imagine ourselves as fairies, or ghosts, or knights, or pirates, or ghost pirates, or as fairy knights. We can sail seas we’ve never heard of, on planets we didn’t know existed, without getting seasick. Or we can just settle into the local bookshop and make tea, from a magical kettle that never leaks.

Animals can talk to us, in our language. We can be the hero. We can do something bad to our rivals and get away with it. Maybe we want fortune and fame and pet dragons. Maybe just the dragons. But we don’t have to deal with pesky things like a job and bad press and obtaining a permit to breed large mythical creatures.

Even though the real world still calls — with its very concrete concerns of dishes that refuse to clean themselves and laundry that just can’t figure out how to fold, and toddlers who still think drawing on walls is a fantastic idea — these other places wait for me, whenever I’m ready, whenever I need them. Whether I’m a return visitor or a newcomer, they always welcome me.

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