Excerpt from "The Great Cauldron of Story: Maria Tatar on Why Fairy Tales Are for Adults Again," On Being, March 13, 2013:
I think what makes it so riveting is there's so many mysterious things happening. And that's what all great literature does. It just presents these puzzles and riddles and what is this, you know. It confronts us with things that, you know, we can't explain. But the words will help us to figure things out. So I always use this word in class of hermeneutic puzzles. That is, we become hermeneuts trying to make sense of the world--interpreters. And it makes us wiser. And this is why Harry Potter is so great. Because kids are always having to solve the puzzles and figure things out.
Voldemort is called Tom Riddle. And, you know, this is why we get lost in books and absorbed. And Tim Wynne-Jones has this great line about the immersive reading experience, where you are in this world. You breathe differently, you're kind of underwater. And not only do you learn a lot about that new world, but you discover how your own mind works. And so ultimately you learn about yourself. This is the great lesson of the anthropologist Lévi-Strauss too, that ultimately these stories help us figure out how our brains are wired.