Fairy tales are more than true


This past week I’ve been on retreat with an extraordinary group of people. After much reluctance on my part, which I now look back upon with some shame, I have become a member of the Society of Ordained Scientists. The Society is an ecumenical group, though primarily Anglican, that for 25 years now has been a place where people who have professional experience in Science AND Theology have committed themselves to a Rule of Life and to living into a dispersed community that seeks to integrate to the two realms of thinking.

I’ll probably have much more to say about the organization over time and the new friends I’ve made this week. (There’s something wonderful about being a room with people who are struggling to do the same sort of thing that you’ve been trying to do. Both to discover that there are others, and to learn so many new insights from their journeys.) But I wanted to share the quote from G.K. Chesterton about Fairy Tales. I’m sorry to admit that I’d not known of it previously.

The form I heard this week in one of the meditations led by a society member was:

Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

It’s not Chesterton directly apparently, it’s an epigrammatic form first published by Neil Gaiman in 2004.

But there’s a world of metaphor waiting to be unlocked in it.

So that’s my task today and tomorrow. To contemplate the mystery of the metaphor of the dragons who can be beaten.

N.B.: I’m adding a new category to this blog that I’m titling SOSc – my plan is to use it for posts that discuss the task of integrating Religious and Scientific cosmologies (world views)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Nick,
    Thank you for this timely post. Your Chesterton quotation became the centerpiece of my sermon last Sunday. It allowed me to talk about the truth of the gospel story, not because it tells us that demons exist, but because it tells us demons can be cast out. -Brian

  2. Glad to help Brian – I should give credit to Bill Stoeger S.J. who introduced me to the quote. I might use it myself this weekend – though I’m leaning toward preaching about the Messianic Secret as something scientists and rabbis both understand.

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