Thursday, 27 March 2014

BTT: Why Read Fiction?

Deb at Booking Through Thursday wants to know:
”Why do YOU read fiction?

The Browning Readers

The Browning Readers (1900) by Sir William Rothenstein (1872-1945)
Oil on canvas, Bradford Art Galleries and Museums.
(Postcrossing postcard recently received from the US.)

I suppose one answer to why I read fiction would be simply that I always did. It’s been part of my life since the Beginning. Before I could read myself, my mother read to me. There was no television in my first years of life, back in the 1950s. There were books, and there was the radio (two channels), and that was that.

When I learned to read, I continued to read books on my own; and besides school books, it was mostly fiction (mum and I frequently visited the library). I never questioned the “point” of reading fiction. But looking back, I think I’d say that fiction serves a double purpose: You can “escape” from your physical surroundings into a novel, but still keep learning things that apply to real life at the same time.


Today I received this postcard from Russia. The illustration belongs to a Russian folk tale, “Kolobok”. This did not mean anything to me until I looked it up in Wikipedia:

The Kolobok, (traditional Russian and Ukrainian pie/ small bread), suddenly becomes animated and escapes from "babushka" and "dedushka"s (old wife and man) home. The fairy tale's plot describes Kolobok's repetitive meetings with various animals (rabbit, wolf, and bear) who intend to eat it, but Kolobok cunningly escapes. With each animal Kolobok sings a song in which he explains his escape deductively: "I got away from Grandmother, I got away from Grandfather, and I will certainly get away from you". The fox manages to catch and eat Kolobok through distracting him by praising his singing.

This struck me as slightly familiar – and yet not quite… I read on, and realised why. In Scandinavian tradition there is a very similar story about a Pancake – but it’s a pig that finally eats it. And in other European countries there are other varieties still of the same tale.

Fascinating, isn’t it, how folk tales were memorised and kept alive even before they were written down.

Incidentally, from Wikipedia I also learn that nowadays the word kolobok is also used for the yellow smiley emoticons frequently used in internet communication:


  1. well this is my fist learning from blogging for today, had not idea and ilove that sweet looking fox...wonderful post card. cute little kolbok to.
    I have never thought about why I read fiction... like you i started with fairy tales as soon as i could read. i have always loves stories about good and evil with the battle going to good... most of fiction is that way or was until recently... I think like you said, escape from daily life... something better than daily life. i know i do not like books that have a bad ending or if the bad guy wins... i think there is enough bad in the world and in our lives to make us seek out stories of people who WIN and overcome life.
    Cinderella was my favorite, Snow White, Rapunzel, on and on, bad treating good evil and end the end good wins.

    1. I have to admit I too prefer fiction that at least leaves some hope at the end :)

  2. Fiction is a reflection of reality. Sometimes we escape into other worlds, other times we want stores closer to home. Reading fiction opens up worlds and minds, and there is nothing better then that!

  3. Interesting! And I totally agree with you. Non-fiction takes us to another place and anything can happen.

    1. Ginny, I do think fiction can open our minds to possibilities stretching beyond our usual limitations.

  4. I learned something from you today too! You see, I had a 'Buboushka' but never a Russian grandfather (my Russian G-Mother married a British soldier). So I have never encountered the term 'Dedushka' before. I have a new word.
    I read fiction 1. for fun and 2. to laugh or smile wryly at myself and the foibles and foolishness of humankind and 3. for the way it helps me in the real world, but without dry and patronising 'teaching'. My favourite fiction is written by Terry Pratchett, William Shakespeare, Patrick O'Brian, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, and Jane Austen.
    I read almost no other fiction by anyone else these days.

    1. Dedushka was a new word to me too, Kate. :)
      Only six favourite authors? You surprise me!
      Austen, Dickens and Pratchett are among those I keep returning to as well, though!

  5. Fiction helps us to manage our lives by thinking about alternative scenarios, however weird those scenarios might be, don't you think? Well, that's one of the reasons I read it, anyway.

  6. How interesting...and the Fairy Tale illustration is lovely.

  7. I know this tale as "Die Geschichte vom dicken fetten Pfannkuchen" (pancake), but can't remember which animal ate it in the end.
    Like for you, stories have always been part of my life; first by having them told or read to me by parents and grandparents, and, as soon as I was able to, by reading (and sometimes writing) them myself. I do love non-fiction, but I need both in my life to feel balanced.

    1. Meike, according to the Wikipedia article on 'kolobok' the end of the German tale differs from the Ukrainian. Instead of being eaten by one of the animals, the pancake gives himself to two poor children who have nothing else to eat.

  8. I read fiction because I read. A sort of variation of 'I am therefore I read'. Lets face it: very few 5 years olds read non-fiction.


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