OUR COLUMNIST AVILA SAYS:

‘Chances are that the right questions are absent when the solutions that emerge to our problems are unhelpful, and the media should take note of the current state of the Arts and the cultural journalism…

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Folktales from about five hundred years ago like “Tom Thumb” are very interesting because they reflect how the people at that time confronted their circumstances in life. Generally, those fictitious histories were transmitted orally to entertain children and adults alike. The use of the imagination was one of the few existing options in order to amuse the minds of the community, but it had to be provided with a good dose of hard reality. Tom never asked to be so remarkably small, it was imposed by Merlin’s magic powers, signaling a future of controversy and mischief for the diminutive character. Although his destiny was sealed for accident-prone events and disability, Tom used, as much as he could, his size as an advantage in an strange and magical world, where wonderful things happened, as well as wicked situations.

The fact that the protagonist of the tale “Tom Thumb” end up killed by the bite of a spider, just when he seemed to have survived all sort of calamities and disappointments, probably gives an indication of how dangerous and tough it was to fulfill the people’s desires and expectations in that era. This is not a bed time story; this is a tale made to be heard loud and clear, in the company of others, by the fire, where the brutality of the actions are relegated to a second place, behind distraction and amusement.

In our world, as well as in the past, the content of the news can feel a lot like a folktale. The reaction of the audience when on one occasion Tom Thumb fell into a bowl and inadvertently was baked by his mother, who thinks that the pudding is bewitched when it starts to move, could be very similar to today’s response of many people to the TV channel news, magazines, or newspapers where the main objective is the entertainment of the individuals. Questions are rare and often trivial, because the information given focuses on the proceedings of the context, not on the content. In the same manner that Tom’s mother may question her enchanted pudding, and doesn’t question the spell cast on her tiny son, many of the reporters center their attention on the effect that produces some event, or some words pronounced by an individual, instead of asking the reason for which those events or words are news.

The skill of questioning is something that should be practiced by the media, in a course, or a private class, to eliminate with the consequent answers as many doubts as possible in the minds of the audience. What’s important and what isn’t in the news, needs to be carefully calculated, and that takes experience and knowledge. Tales are excellent sources of information, even though certain transformations occur over distant periods of time, because they introduce us to a universe of unexpected details from the past, which result in almost incomprehensible behaviors from an actual point of view. That is why when we read old tales, questions emanate at every corner of the narration producing a sensation of wonder in our imagination. They are destined to spur our minds, not only by transporting us from place to place aimlessly, but by exercising in every step, our capabilities of reasoning, awaking our interest with colorful surprises, courageous actions, enigmatic situations, and intransigent destinies’