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they have the potential to lay the foundation for a new
tradition of earth stories, a bardic repertoire of heroism
made up of stories of activism and reconciliation; stories
which celebrate the human-nature relationship. Clarissa
Pinkola Estes (1992:19-20) writes that,
"modern story tellers are the descendants of
an immense and ancient community of holy people, troubadours,
bards … and crazy people’, people who are
able to move between worlds (like the shaman) and feel
the wind blow inspiration ‘into the face of the
Stories link people to place and to naturescape; they
affirm feelings of grief for the pain of the earth and
joy in the celebration of our connection with it. When
Aboriginal people lose their connection to stories of
place, they lose connection to life itself. Their stories
not only describe their relationship with the land, they
also assist in creating and re-creating those relationship.
I am not suggesting we appropriate Aboriginal stories
of the land but pointing out the consequences of losing
a story when the ties to the land are severed.
Stories played a great role in my childhood. As my parents
did not have a car and my father refused to go on holiday,
I spent a lot of time with my head buried in books. From
them I learned that animals could talk and trees could
guide me down a treacherous path to safety. What I couldn’t
understand was that adults had told me that animals and
plants could talk and then when I got older they told
me that they couldn’t. I never stopped believing.
Stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, The
Phantom Tollbooth, Una and the Lion and
Winnie the Pooh, as well as fairy tales from
many lands were, and are, an essential part of my worldview.
This animistic awareness forms the epistemological backdrop
to this study. Deep ecology founder Arne Naess believes
that childhood animism is closely related to the worldview
of deep ecological philosophy, and I would also suggest,
to the worldview of ecopsychology.
Green philosophy and the philosophy of the deep ecology
movement is largely an articulation of the implicit philosophy
of 5 year old children who have access to at least a minimum
of animals, plants and natural places. These children
experience animals as being like themselves in basic respects.
They have joys, sorrows, interests, needs, loves and hates.
Even flowers and places are alive to them ... Philosophers
of the deep ecology movement may be said to be people
who have never found biological, political or other arguments
to undermine those attitudes implicit in childhood (Naess,
In animistic and indigenous cultures there is no distinction
between magical and natural events and ‘nothing
mysterious, transcendental, or “mystical”
about magic’ (Favat, 1977:41),
whereas in Western culture, the magical has been transformed
into the supernatural and has been split off from the
natural world. This means we might not see the fairies
at the bottom of the garden, converse with nature devas,
or connect with the spirits of place. But as children
we know they are there. These animistic or magical relationships
that live in a child’s world also live in the world
of fairy tale. Favat makes an interesting comment that
while the interest in fairy tale generally wanes between
six and eight years of age, ‘there is a resurgence
of interest around the age of 18 to 20 that seems to continue
through adult life’ (1977:56).
In particular he mentions the fantasies of C. S. Lewis
and J. R. R. Tolkein as if we remember the child-self
or wild part of ourselves that lies buried in our hearts.
In her marvellous book on fairy tale, From the Beast
to the Blond, Marina Warner (1994)
explains why she rekindled an interest stories from her
childhood but comments ‘there is nothing the least
childlike’ about them.
"I have become even more drawn to them as I have
grown older, because they began to represent childhood,
that vividness of experience in the midst of inexperience,
the capacity for daydreaming and wonder (Warner, 1994:xiv)."
This capacity for daydreaming and wonder can still be
found in fairy tales but many of the stories we loved
as children were and still are sanitized and changed to
fit the prevailing social and political climate of the
day (Zipes, 1983). This
can be seen particularly in the ‘Disney-fication’
of many of my favourite stories where, Warner (1994:311)
observes, the wild animal or wild beast ‘no longer
seems charged with danger, let alone evil’. The
bear becomes the tame teddy; Beauty and the Beast
becomes a popular cartoon; and the once vicious wolf from
Little Red Riding Hood is rehabilitated and returned
to the wilds where you can hear it howl.
The real stories that will sustain us will only come out
of community where we tell and listen to stories. The
act of telling creates community and, at the same time,
elicits more stories (Sam Keen, 1993).