Penney is a perfectly normal three-year-old; except that Penney can fly. Now what’s a mother to do? Flying at three, you say? Can her parents fly too? No they cannot. Nor can any other human.
Penney flies because she can, and it is frightening! She has followed her impulses, as any three-year-old would do, but hers do not simply toddle out of Mommy’s sight. Penney can go anywhere, and she doesn’t necessarily really want to go to a faraway place, not yet, certainly not yet. She cannot survive without her Mommy. Children were designed to be watched over, cared for.
Penney’s Mommy must become very creative. Penney is too young for Mommy to reason with her using words. It would be cruel to tie an anchor to her body. What oh what can Penney’s Mommy do?
“Once upon a time,” Mommy begins. She adapts all the fairy tales she knows, all the “big bad wolves,” all the “mean old witches,” all the unhappy endings that the moderns say pollute and terrorize and inhibit tender minds. And this she does for Penney’s sake, because the only sure way she can keep Penney safe, is to make the little girl AFRAID.
The true thing Penney really has to fear, of course, is death. Not that she would crash and burn. Simply that she would not survive. Alone. Not this young. Penney needs to learn to fear all the other-ness of the rest of the world, so that she will stay. With. Her mother.
And thus have all the tellers-of-tales-to-children been motivated since Time began.
You cannot very well explain to a three-year-old that she is utterly dependent and infinitely vulnerable. She just doesn’t have the words yet. She just doesn’t have the capacity to grasp the concept. But oh! She can FLY!
- "I who am dead a thousand years and wrote this sweet archaic song, Send you my words for messengers the way I shall not pass along. . . . O friend unseen, unborn, unknown, student of our sweet English tongue, Read out my words at night, alone: I was a poet, I was young." -- James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915)