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Fairy Tales

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Compared to games and perspective, this is a tiny issue, but it comes up in at least two scenes that we think are interesting to bring together.

The first is the blink-and-you-missed-it reference that one of the military administrators makes. When describing his job, this guy (Graff?) puts it in fairy tale terms: “We're the wicked witch. We promise gingerbread, but we eat the little bastards alive" (2.10).

The second is harder to miss; it’s that Ender finds his way to Fairyland in the mind game. Unlike Ender’s guess that Fairyland will be stupid – some sort of “three-year-old’s Fairyland that probably had some stupid Mother Goose or Pac-Man or Peter Pan” (6.109) – Fairyland turns out to be the not-stupid place with the dead giant’s body and the wolf-children on the playground. And getting through fairyland is how Ender reaches the End of the World.

OK, once we notice these two references, what can we say about them? First, they’re very serious even if they seem silly at first. That is, the military man is joking when he compares them to the wicked witch, but it’s not a bad comparison: they both take children away and put them through some terrible situation. And while Fairyland is in a game, it’s a game that tells Ender some serious things about himself. So how about this: just like games, fairy tales are something that may be related to childhood, but that are also very serious here.

Second, in these references, we find that things aren’t how we expected them. For example, the adults in the military aren’t saving Ender from the witch – they are the witch. And instead of having the children eaten by wolves, in Ender’s Fairyland, the children are the wolves. This is a subtle point, but it’s one that we should remember in this book: sometimes, things aren’t the way we suppose they’ll be. This sets us up for another unexpected twist: the Third Invasion is not the buggers coming to Earth, but the humans going to the bugger homeworld.

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