What is magic?
It might be a pair of mouse ears from the very first souvenir kiosk inside the gate at the foot of Main Street, USA at Disney World. The ears and the boy become inseparable; it takes real magic to form a bond like that. Like true love, it cannot be described; it has to be experienced.
Everyone knows there is good magic...and bad magic. Glinda is a good witch; the Fairy Godmother turns mice into footmen; the Wicked Queen makes poisoned apples....and the Wicked Witch of the West and her monkeys were so terrifyingly real (even in black and white!) that I was not completely sorry when my parents sent me to bed before The Wizard of Oz was finished. I knew tornadoes could pick up houses; it followed that wicked witches could command flying monkeys.
If you are five, you know bad magic when you feel it. Having some strange alien with big ears and long fangs appear out of nowhere to suddenly loom over you with fog and manic laughter and flashing lights is NOT MAGIC! It is scary and all the more horrible because you are not expecting it. If you are five, you tell your mother you don't want to stay at Disney World, no Magic Kingdom for you; you are ready to leave NOW! The power of your mouse ears is no match for the fearful future of Tomorrowland.
That's why a guy needs a sword...straight from the pirate lair, a cutlass perhaps, long enough to stick out beneath one's plaid Bermuda shorts.Why do fortunate pirates have scabbards? So they don't slash themselves in the kneecap as they swash their buckle.
With a sword...or scimitar....or dagger....or light saber, you carry your magic with you. You can face down those moaning wraiths in the Haunted Mansion and sit tight while cannon balls whistle past your ears in the Pirates of the Caribbean. This pirate gig is contagious; the accessories are so enticing! Spyglasses and tricorns, maps and medallions for talismans, derring do and ships that fly..
When adults stroll through Fantasyland, we admire the attention to detail, the artfulness of the design, the professional singing and dancing, the cleanliness of the surroundings. When older children visit, they are entranced by the characters, but they don't have to be told that Chip and Dale are costumed actors, that Tinkerbell doesn't fly without a wire, that the wraiths and ghosts on the rides are special effects of the highest caliber. Older kids are there to be thrilled by the rides; the magic they experience comes from speed, misdirection, and illusion. An adult in costume is playing Peter Pan or paying homage to a well-loved movie or childhood memory. A young girl in a princess costume with glitter in her Cinderella bun does not expect to meet Prince Charming. But, like the littlest children in Mary Poppins who can converse with the sun and wind and comprehend the language of birds and animals, a five year old's understanding of make believe seems to be both darker and brighter than any gimmick or device of man's design. A five year old will ask if there are still pirates...
...and whether Beauty's Beast roaring on the stage is a "good guy".
A guy who is five loves to drive fast; he's his own man soaring with Dumbo, or riding a flying carpet, or spinning like a Mad Hatter in a tea cup....
He will wrap a slimy cobra around his neck...after asking if the basket of curling snakes is real...
He will climb anything and jump off everything. He is brave.
He will even wave at Peter Pan and call out to the Goofy in the parade.
But he will keep a prudent distance from fuzzy ducks or giant chipmunks or Wookies. He is five, and they are strange and magical....
...and you can't be too careful unless you have your sword...and your ears.