Old Tales and New Truths

Charting the Bright-Shadow World

By James Roy King

Subjects: Children's Literature
Paperback : 9780791408544, 267 pages, February 1992
Hardcover : 9780791408537, 267 pages, February 1992

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Table of contents

1. Hearing Tales: The Behavioral Dimension
2. A Way of Proceeding
3. On Reading the World: Jus' Settin' 'n' Rockin'
4. Some Structural Possibilities
5. Edges
6. The Ambiguities of Enchantment
7. Power
8. Moral Ties
9. Personal Identity
10. The Experience of Knowing
11. Some Typical Bright-Shadow-World Problems
12. Nimble Riding—a Question of Style
13. The World of the Bright Shadow
Appendix 1: Analysis of the Structure of Situations
Appendix 2: Assessment of Life-Enhancing Themes


This guidebook to the Bright-Shadow World develops three closely related issues. The first is the position that fairytales and folktales are of value today because they encourage the growth of capabilities important in our postmodern world. Each of us, like the fairytale hero, sets out on his/her own quests, seeks his/her own identity, faces his/her own dilemmas with few resources but wit, imagination, and a certain power of improvisation. King develops the implications of this situation for such common fairytale problems as learning to read the world productively; navigating various kinds of "edges;" exploiting power sources; developing highly personal moral commitments; problem solving; and data collecting.

The second concern of this book is with the development of a system for analyzing narrative structure. The formula offered here involves an examination of interactions among actors, physical settings, lines of force, and power sources as a narrative moves toward its denouement. This system facilitates the classifying, and contrasting of narratives, and illuminates the structure of both narrative and lived experience.

Finally, this book is concerned with myth-making or world-making processes. It is shown that traditional narrative actually points to and delineates another dimension of existence (here called "the Bright-Shadow World") that operates by rules of its own and may be penetrated by individuals from our ordinary world. Inferences about the Bright-Shadow World drawn from traditional narrative are described and evaluated.

James Roy King is a retired Professor of English at Wittenberg University.


"I like the basic thesis—that traditional narratives can be used, rhetorically, by their tellers as conceptual blockbreakers rather than as reinforcers of what is. This point is very well, even enchantingly, made. King adds a new dimension and sophistication to the study of folk narratives cross culturally. — Sabra J. Webber, The Ohio State University.