Illustration: Elise Gaeremynck
2 min lesetid

Where Has the Magic in Adults Gone?  

Dragons, witches, speaking animals and singing trees…. They appear in the telling of dozens of stories. We love to hear about them, feel the thrill of fear and excitement in books and movies. However, the current scientific paradigm has taught us something that breaks the magic: what can’t be explained can’t be real. The adult mind is rational and not to be fooled.

Let’s talk about fairy tales. Fairy tales are generally associated with children. It makes us think that they are the only humans that can put their minds to wonders and miracles, while adults no longer allow themselves space for the supernatural or the “impossible”. In the eyes of society, fairy tales are not for the rational and logical adult mind. The stories we’ve been told as a child teach us lessons, scare us off, trigger our creativity and feed our imagination. They form a base for our understanding of things, even if it can’t be scientifically explained. They show that there is much more to the world than we could ever discover.

At the Roots of Childlike Imagination

Our adult minds are trained to explain what happens in our lifeworlds, through the context of the current scientific paradigm and social discourses. Children’s minds, however, are considered to be “in the making” and still lacking some of the rational thinking that they will reach at an older age. Until then, their minds allow them to wonder, believe and imagine a world that scientifically can’t exist.

In many Western societies, fairytales are embedded in cultural traditions around raising children. Our socialization establishes us as social beings, especially during childhood. We’ve all been socialized into commonly accepted ways of thinking, interpreting and defining reality. Believing that frogs can turn into princes, buildings can speak and witches can suddenly turn up from the woods are not a part of this. Social expectations generally aim to “keep us on track” and prevent us from losing our minds. They are supposed to keep us rational and hold us away from the irrationality of a child.

Faith and the Old Days

Believing in fairy tales might sound odd nowadays, but for ages people believed in saga, legends and folktales that bear the roots of most of the fairy tales we know. For many generations both adults and children were convinced of the existence of supernatural creatures or spirits holding a grip on communities and towns. Many rituals were invented to protect the people from harm and danger. Even though there are still many traditional communities in the world that design their life according to the power of these spirits, knowledge acquired through science and media have changed our ideas and perceptions of reality and magic. 

Nowadays,spirituality and religion still finds a way to explain the inexplicable. It describes the happenings of scientifically impossible phenomena and argues for the supernatural powers of upper creatures: the Gods. However, the question of proof might never be answered. Is religion stuck in convictions of old times, or are we bypassing the discourse of science? 

All of this makes me wonder: why are we always desperately seeking for proof? Why does society judge us for believing in something that can’t be explained, if the story actually gives us tools and a grip on life? The lessons that fairytales teach us as children should reach past any border of age and culture. We should take them by the hand and let them guide us through life, to keep the magic alive and forever maintain a piece of our childish fascination.


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