Gaby wants to know the truth!
Is the tooth fairy real, or is it his parents who put money under his pillow? Dad, whom Alexander admits is himself, explains that once there were magical creatures, but that people turned away from them. People learned to turn
…nighttime into day …
to change the weather, the oceans and the land.
But the more they controlled the world,
the more the magic faded.
Before the last fairy left, she said, “if you try [to believe] –if you really try– our voices may still be heard.” The fairy added, when children put their baby teeth under their pillow their parents will hear a voice inside their heads telling
“them what to write and what treasures to exchange.”
“You must trust that it is us, or we truly shall be gone.”
The child is, in a short passage, taught several messages destructive to his view of the World, of Mankind and of his own cognitive ability. The child is to accept that
- fairies actually existed,
- Man’s knowledge and technology, by which he alters his environment to live, caused harm to creatures that were only a fantasy in the first place, and
- blind trust in the absence of evidence is to be expected.
This sets Gaby and children up, to place fantasy and whim over reason.
Instead of the truth, Gaby is told ─a lie!
Before men learned to control their environment, men sought protection from weather and wild animals by living in caves. They regularly suffered and died from starvation, from a host of diseases, from minor cuts that turned septic, and from horrible injuries —even basic first aid did not exist.
It is the use of reason, not faith or fairies, that provides men with reliable food and shelter, with protection from and treatment for disease and injury, with the beauty of art and with other happy experiences in life (such as a holiday flight to a tropical island).
Yet, Alexander’s story undercuts the one tool of Mankind that made those things possible: reason. And he does so at a time when young children are just discovering it!
In a closing note to the book, Alexander seeks to “balance” un-reason with reason. He argues that parental responsibility to children “needs to be a balance between their heads and their hearts.” In this context, “heart” is a reference to one’s feelings or whims ─blind faith─ in direct opposition to the reason and logic of the “head”.
But feelings are a consequence of ideas or conclusions about an earlier event that one accepts deep in one’s subconscious mind. Later, some similar event may cause the feelings to come flooding back. But if that emotion does not fit the new context, only reason can deal with it correctly. That frightening dog of your childhood may still cause discomfort or fear, years later. When the appearance of a different dog evokes that fear, the first moment of feelings may be entirely inappropriate. The new dog could be entirely friendly and harmless. In this respect, the head must always trump the heart. The old fashioned way of making this point was, “If the horse throws you, get right back on and ride.”
VM questions the wisdom of encouraging a child to ‘balance’ reason with poison of un-reason, to dilute the explicable with the confusion of the inexplicable.
Even the illustrations convey this false ‘balance’, which is to Ron Spears’ artistic credit. The ‘real’ people and their surroundings appear flat and cartoon-like, whereas the fairy world seems more real, with depth, complexity and color; the fairies’ faces are more human than the real ones. Philosophers might recognize this as paralleling the dichotomy between This World and Plato’s entirely imaginary, Ideal World.