By Harry Stone
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Extra resources for Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Novel-Making
6 &7. 4 Dickens was not exaggerating in these vignettes. -A Gentleman walking through a church-yard, saw a little girl standing near a grave. He asked her whose grave it was. "It is my brother's," she replied. " The Fairy-Tale Heritage 21 If once a little child offends, How seldom there its error ends! This devastating inversion of Wordsworth's ''We are Seven'' is accompanied by a woodcut which shows the gentleman and the little girl standing in the churchyard and viewing, not simply the brother's grave, but the wrapped and trussed corpse of the sinful child.
And now, those dreadfully interesting, double-headed giants, with their clubs over their shoulders, begin to stride along the boughs in a perfect throng, dragging knights and ladies home for dinner by the hair of their heads. And Jack-how noble, with his sword of sharpness, and his shoes of swiftness! I debate within myself whether there was more than one Jack (which I am loth to believe possible), or only one genuine original admirable Jack, who achieved all the recorded exploits. 9 The reminiscence itself takes on the attributes of a fairy tale, transforming, dissolving, and blending with magical freedom and swiftness.
Yet in the longer· passages, the characteristic tonalities are almost always present: sometimes the bright chord dominates, sometimes the somber one, sometimes the two blend and combine in strange harmonies and dissonances. It is hard to know which came first, Dickens' interest in fairy tales or his conditioning by them. Did his needs and idiosyncrasies produce his Dickens' Fabling Mind 39 wonderful sensitivity to the storytelling of his childhood, or did that singular storytelling engender his needs and idiosyncrasies?