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Guroian illuminates the complex ways in which fairy tales and fantasies educate the moral imagination from earliest childhood. Examining a wide range of stories - from Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid to Charlotte's Web, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Wind in the Willows, and the Narnia Chronicles - he argues that these tales capture the meaning of morality through vivid depictions of the struggle between good and evil, in which characters must make difficult choices between right and wrong, or heroes and villains contest the very fate of imaginary worlds. Character and the virtues are depicted compellingly in these stories; the virtues glimmer as if in a looking glass, and wickedness and deception are unmasked of their pretensions to goodness and truth. We are made to face the unvarnished truth about ourselves, and what kind of people we want to be. Throughout, Guroian highlights the classical moral virtues such as courage, goodness, and honesty, especially as they are understood in traditional Christianity.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195117875
ISBN-10: 0195117875
Format: Hardback
(218mm x 147mm x 21mm)
Pages: 208
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 1-May-1998
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » A little jewel of a book on how great fairy tales and other children's stories, with their vivid myths and metaphors, can morally educate and refine young people. Theologian Guroian engages in a close and sensitive reading of about a dozen children's tales, including such well-known ones as The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio and such largely forgotten ones as The Princess and the Goblin by the 19th-century British writer George MacDonald. He notes that contemporary "values education," with its often dry presentation of moral principles, has at best limited appeal to children. In contrast, the great children's stories graphically and memorably present characters - human, animal, fantastical, and other - that embody the struggles and joys of being human. Their focus is on such enduring themes as deep friendship and love, suffering and solitude, fear and courage, empathy and the "leap of faith." Guroian writes crisply and perceptively about these and related matters, such as this observation about love, faith, and tolerance in The Princess and Goblin: "the hard troth [is] that we cannot make even those whom we love believe, and that if we truly love them, then we must permit them to come freely to that belief." His interpretations sometimes may prove overly christological for many non-Christian readers. For example, he claims that a "redrose willow tree" that the Little Mermaid plants "alludes to blood and tears and the passion of the cross," a symbolic link that seems far too theologically freighted for most children. Still, this is a book whose appeal goes far beyond the religiously minded; it will interest parents and teachers of all backgrounds who want to help their children to both grow imaginatively and achieve moral depth. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Vigen Guroian

Vigen Guroian is Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia.

Books By Author Vigen Guroian

Melody of Faith by Vigen Guroian

The Melody of Faith

Paperback, September 2010
Rallying the Really Human Things by Vigen Guroian

Rallying the Really Human Things

Paperback, May 2005
Tending the Heart of Virtue by Vigen Guroian

Tending the Heart of Virtue

Paperback, January 2002
Life's Living Toward Dying by Vigen Guroian

Life's Living Toward Dying

Paperback, May 1996