I’ve talked a bit about children’s ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. One much-loved child in the shape of an adult is Father Dougal McGuire, who was on our screens last night in a New Year Father Ted special. In the very first episode, entitled ‘Good Luck, Father Ted‘, Dougal tells Ted about a funfair that is coming to Craggy Island. He tries to persuade him that one of the main attractions is a strange hybrid called the Spider-Baby. On cross-examination, it becomes clear that Dougal is confused about the provenance of this idea. You can watch what follows here.
Dougal is like a toddler in so many ways. But are toddlers’ qualities (I would hate to call them failings or weaknesses) in this respect best described as a confusion between fantasy and reality? In an earlier post, I mentioned how we have tried to reformulate this question as involving a distinction between internally generated and externally generated events. Father Ted’s instructional diagram illustrates this quite nicely. What Dougal has to do is distinguish between the products of his own mind—the dream he has had—and the workings of external reality. His mix-up gives life to the Spider-Baby, and made us laugh on a cold night as well.