Fairy Tales, Dreams—And Reality


Last week, King Charles III (74) was crowned to be the official head of state of the United Kingdom and 13 other countries, well, to be the constitutional and symbolic head. The many Brits and people from around the world who took part in the events, mostly via TV, of course, came into a fairy-tale mood. True, some were less supportive and even against the fantastic magnitude of celebrations. But maybe the fairy-tale parts have some positive functions? Maybe fairy tales can even help us see reality better, with their many facets and diversities. Maybe the ‘pomp and pageantry’, or perhaps the term is, ‘pomp and circumstance’, can help us understand and question things we have not thought of before. Perhaps daydreaming a bit in life, from time to time, is important to be able to take the many difficulties everyone will face in life, indeed now with rising inflation, leading to growing hardship, sometimes poverty even in a country such as the UK? The unique scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) advised parents and teachers to read fairy tales to the children if they wanted them to become clever and creative—and last week’s London events were ‘live’ fairy tales, not just something invented by writers. Many stories about life and traditions are beautified descriptions of reality—and such stories may not even be about royals. They could be about Pakistanis dreaming about life in the West, or Norwegians thinking about life in America 150 years ago when so many of them went to the ‘New World’. Again, maybe we ‘ordinary people’ need to use our fantasies and dream about things that are ‘bigger than life’. Perhaps it makes us happy even if we know they are exaggerations. And perhaps Einstein had a point, namely that our dreams can lead us to greater creativity, innovation and the use of our hidden talents and skills.

The formal coronation ceremony in London last week took place in the impressive cathedral of Westminster Abbey, in itself a ‘fairy-tale building’. The head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the master of the ceremony. It was a religious event, with secular state and military aspects playing lesser roles. In certain ways, it was also a family event since the new king had ‘inherited the throne’. This time, the head of state’s spouse, Queen Camilla (75), was also crowned. However, the event was toned down as compared to the event in 1953, when the previous head of state, Queen Elisabeth II (1926-2022). That time, the guest list included no less than some 8,000 people: this time, ‘only’ 2,000. They were royals and other nobility from many countries, often related to each other since intermarriages were common amongst that little ‘clique’ at the top of the class society until recently. There were heads of state, prime ministers, top politicians, leaders of international organizations, private companies, religious organisations, and so on. Many of them, have climbed the ladder and not inherited their posts and place in society, and they must have pinched their arm while attending the event, indeed being at the top of the world in an ‘ongoing fairy-tale’, not just reading about it in a children’s book.

‘Ordinary people’ were part of the event, too, or at least peep in from outside and imagine they had taken part in it. Tens of thousands lined a couple of kilometres long route of the royal procession, where the streets had been decorated with Union Jack flags, royal monograms and more. The King and Queen travelled in a century-old, golden fairy-tale horse cart from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, their official residence. In spite of the rainy weather, people enjoyed the festive atmosphere with brass band music, a lot of hustle and bustle, and perhaps even getting a glimpse of the dignitaries as they passed by. Some anti-monarchists were there, too, with yellow posters saying that the outdated institution should be gotten rid of. But recent opinion polls show that over sixty percent of the Brits want to keep the ‘fairy-tale institution’, so it is likely to be there in our lifetime—and that of King Charles III.

We should remember that if there is something the UK is good at, it is organizing royal state events. At this time, we know that the UK needs something to make it be seen in the world—now after the end of the British Empire, and recently, pulling out of the European Union, and other issues, too, such as that of Northern Ireland and Scotland. Maybe there will be a loosening of the state-church ties in the UK in the future. Still, through the existing system, religious aspects are included in the state, not making it entirely secular. I believe it is important to keep that tradition, not least at a time when it seems that more young people in Europe have a closer connection to religion than people in the previous couple of generations. Also, religion has important moral and ethical advice to individuals, societies and states, influencing political decisions, with local and international consequences.

Care for the poor and needy is central to believers in all faiths; solidarity and love for one’s neighbour are more important than ever in the turbulent world we live in. If the royals and the ‘fairy-tale institution’ of King Charles III and Queen Camilla can have some positive contributions to peace and peace movements, that would be good. In certain ways, fairy tales make us think with the heart, encouraging us that we don’t always have to be super-intellectual. We need dreams and fairy tales, too. If we look around us today, the big development mistakes are made by people who think they are great intellectuals and realists. We need both types of people, of course, and Einstein knew that; he was walking on two legs, one leg, or maybe one side of the brain, planted in dreams and fairy tales, the other, deep into reality, working for tangible social and material change and development in the world.