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Monday, 25 May 2015

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

It was Stephen Fry, I believe, many years ago, who criticised the sorts of people who quote authors' characters and then tag them with the authors themselves. The example he gave was the sort of person who would say "Neither a borrower nor a lender be - Shakespeare!" and forget that the person who says it, Polonius, is an idiot.

And on this most holy of Towel Days, I remember this quote from Douglas Adams:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
This is often quoted as a kind of counter to those of us who are deeply committed to both science and faith. I think there are three things wrong with this:

1. Wouldn't it be great if there were fairies at the bottom of the garden? It wouldn't diminish the garden's beauty one jot.

2. These words aren't directly Adams's views (though they may reflect them). If you take everything that is thought or done in Douglas Adams's works as being directly his thoughts, you would also think that stealing space ships is a good idea, going across zebra crossings is dangerous, you should stick fish in your ear and that nobody should ever talk to you about life.

3. They're actually attributed, as thoughts, to Ford Prefect, in response to Zaphod's belief that he has found the lost planet of Magrathea. In context they're funny, quite profound, and absolutely right - up to the point that they realise Zaphod has, in fact, discovered the lost planet of Magrathea. After that point, Ford is merely a cynic who was proven wrong. Turns out, in the context of the book, that the bottom of the garden was exactly  the place that the fairies were.

1 comment :

  1. Never mind fairies, but Ford Prefect should have been able to deduce the existence of a gardener.


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