Monday, May 28, 2018

Peter Pan: I Won't Grow Up!

All children, except one, grow up. 

  --J. M. Barrie

A recent poll, reported in the Daily Mail, said that this quote from Barrie is Britain's favorite opening line, beating out even Orwell and Dickens. The line, as you may know, is from Barrie's children's classic Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up  who returns to the land of reality every spring to find child recruits who want to fly away to Never-Never Land. Just think happy thoughts, and with a sprinkle of fairy dust, up you go! As long as you're in Never-Never Land, you play all day and never grow up.

The grown-ups are appalled. But what's so great about growing up anyway?

  •  Maybe we were better off when we knew dandelions aren't weeds to yank up by the roots, but beautiful flowers to enjoy.
  •  Or when we knew that snow isn't for complaining about. Duh. It's for sledding and snow forts and snowball fights.
  •  Or when we knew that the purpose of toys isn't to tidy them up and put them in a box –– it's to play and have fun.

  •  Or when we knew that the cool careers aren't accountant, lawyer, and life coach (whatever that is) but cowboy, pirate, firefighter, and — ta da! — astronaut!
  •  Can we remember when it was fun to "cook" donuts with Play-Doh — instead of cooking under the stormcloud of why-did-I-invite-all-these-people-for-dinner?

  •  When rather than blowing our top, we just blew bubbles?

Childhood is an enchanted time of our lives, and Barrie captures some of the magic in Peter Pan.

James Matthew Barrie

After starting his writing career as a journalist, Barrie then turned his attention to fiction and drama.  His friendship with some special children, the Llewellyn Davies boys, helped inspire a new character, a boy who didn't grow up. He introduced Peter Pan in a novel, The Little White Bird, published in 1902. Then he produced a play, Peter Pan –– or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up –– two years later.

Michael Llewellyn Davies,
as Peter Pan

And there may have been another inspiration too. When Barrie was almost 14, his younger brother David died in an ice-skating accident. His mother was devastated. James started wearing some of David's clothing and whistling like David did, to try to keep David "alive" for his mother. 

One night he walked into his mother's bedroom. "Is that you?" she asked.

Barrie replied in a meek voice, "No, it's no' him, it's just me." What a terrible burden for a young man to bear.

But the mother seemed to take some comfort in knowing that David would always be a child.

And when you look at it that way, growing up is a privilege that isn't granted to everyone. But we can grow up without losing our childlike sense of wonder and play. We can still make wishes with dandelions and blow bubbles to forget our troubles. We can still enjoy having stories read aloud to us. We can still get the giggles. And the wiggles. We can still find happy thoughts that make us fly.

We can keep the best of childhood alive inside of us –– at any age.

Barrie playing with Michael Llewellyn Davies

The Stark Raving Mythopath highly recommends these two fantastic movies related to Peter Pan and J. M. Barrie.

Hook (1991) gives us an updated version of the Peter Pan story as lawyer Peter Banning (formerly Peter Pan) must return to Neverland to rescue his children from the sinister, mustache-twirling Captain Hook. Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts.

Finding Neverland (2005) tells the story of how Barrie gets to know the Llewellyn Davies children and how he produces the play Peter Pan against great odds for disaster. Jonny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, and Julie Christie. 

Photo Credits:
    Children in Swings - English: Swings, 1932, 
       by Ethel Spowers - This image is of Australian 
       origin and is now in the public domain 
       because its copyright has expired - 
       Australian Copyright Council;
    Peter Pan drawing Author: N. Kasp, created on Inkscape;
    Boy with dandelion - © Can Stock Photo / shalamov;
    Cowboy - © Can Stock Photo / webking;
    Girl blowing bubbles - © Can Stock Photo / G3Rich;
    J. M. Barrie - Author: George Charles Beresford - This work is in 
      the public domain in the United States because it was published 
      (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923;
    Michael Llewellyn Davies - Author: J. M. Barrie - This work is in the
        public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
        where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less;
    Girl playing dress up - © Can Stock Photo / geotrac;
    Barrie and Michael playing - Author: Unknown but presumably 
        Sylvia Llewellyn Davies - This work is in the public domain in 
        its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
        the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

In Praise of Brit Lit

Okay, so tell me again why we fought the war – that Revolution thing? Um, something about tea and taxes?

As a self-proclaimed Stark Raving Mythopath, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that we ever wanted to split from the Brits. I mean, what’s not to love about the blokes? 

Sure, they may drive on the wrong side of the road and they may play football with a soccer ball, but after all. . . .  Tea and crumpets? Lords and Ladies? Royal weddings?  Downton Abbey? David Tennant? Judy Dench? Benedict Cumberbatch? What a bloomin’ brilliant place!

And when it comes to literature and stories, whole continents of wonderful words have poured forth from such a small island. Let’s see. . . .Shakespeare, for starters. 

Just for starters.

George MacDonald
And a poet or two. Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Donne, T. S. Eliot (okay, he came from the USA but moved to England), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Yeats, Dylan Thomas…..  

And mythic tales? Beowolf, Canterbury Tales, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, George MacDonald, E. Nesbit, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, G. K. Chesterton, J. K. Rowling…. And many contributors to the Arthurian legends, including Geoffrey of Monmouth, Thomas Malory, and Alfred, Lord  Tennyson. There's a whole pantheon of Big-Time Big Names on the Olympus of Brit Lit.

Beowulf, first folio edition

When it comes to literature, they’ve got at least a 700 year head start on us here in the Colonies. Even God speaks British in the King James Bible! How are we supposed to compete with that?

And don't get me started on British TV shows. Dr. Who? Love it. Detective shows like Morse, Lewis, Endeavor, Sherlock, Broadchurch, Father Brown. . . .can't get enough. 

Benedict Cumberbatch
filming Sherlock

And dramas. Call the Midwife. Pride and Prejudice. Upstairs, Downstairs. Chariots of Fire. Just a sampling, of course.

For comedy, there's Doc Martin, Fry  & LaurieAs Time Goes By, Keeping Up Appearances, and the Monty Python movies. My favorite is Time Bandits.) Again, only a sampling.

And the Brits don't have home remodeling shows (just add open concept and shiplap)  they have architecture shows with jaw-dropping glass walls, cantilevered upper levels,  and skylights that brighten subterranean marvels. Structures that make you wonder, how in the world did they do that!

And even when we want to start bragging about American poets, novelists, screenwriters, etc., we need to pause and humbly reflect that the very language we use for our creations came from that small island off the coast of Europe  all those warring Germanic tribes that finally settled down and started making book deals. Those fun-loving Normans that invaded in 1066. The Great Vowel Shift of the 1400's. Caxton's printing press. And all the yummy ingredients that were thrown into the Stone Soup to create the amazing English language we know and love today.

Seems the whole British Empire thing didn't work out in the long run, but I think the Brits have still achieved world domination – through their wonderful writing and creativity.

Image Credits:
    Revolutionary drummers -- © Can Stock Photo / magmarcz;
    Royal Wedding -- photo by John Pannell; derivative work: César;
    Shakespeare -- Source: Extrait de "L’Homme et la Terre"; Author: Élisée Reclus;
        This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries
         and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. 
    George MacDonald --  English: photograph of George MacDonald, taken in 
        the 1800's.
        Public Domain in US because it was published prior to 1923.
    Beowulf manuscript -- by the Beowulf poet, who else?
     This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
      where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.
    King James Bible, 1611 -- Frontispiece -- Public Domain  -- This work is in the 
       public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
       the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less.
    Benedict Cumberbatch filming Sherlock -- Author: Fat Les from London, UK;
       derivative work: RanZag (talk)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Best Moms of Mythology — 2018

We're back!

And we welcome mythopaths world-wide to the reality show that honors the most mythic moms ever. . . .the B-MOM’s – Best Mothers of Mythology  2018 edition. And as always, we have an all-star line-up of moms of mythic proportions. So to get started. .  . .

Awwww! Look at the cute little kitty. Um, I mean kitties —there are two, no three. Now, wait a cotton-pickin’ minute. Where did all these freakin’ cats come from? 

Oh, I get it. The Egyptian goddess Bastet, the ultimate cat lady, isn’t hard to spot. She’s the one with the body of a woman and the head of a. . .yup, you guessed it. Let’s just say her puss is unforgettable. 

She’s the Goddess of Domesticity, Fertility, and Childbirth. She's sometimes pictured with a litter of kittens at her feet, just to show what a great mom she is. (Although there has been some speculation as to whether Bastet is in fact a real mother or if the kittens were borrowed from an animal shelter to sway the judges. We’ll have to wait for a ruling on that. So stay tuned.)

I guess we can tell from the music who just arrived. The orchestra is playing Maat’s theme song. “She stuck a feather in her cap and called it law and justice.” Catchy, isn’t it? 

Maat, with sporty feather

Maat  Egyptian Goddess of Truth, Order, and Harmony  represents the moral order for life and society. She holds a scepter in one hand and an ankh in the other. (The ankh is a pretzel-like symbol of eternal life.) 

When you die, said the ancient Egyptians, you go to the underworld and meet Maat standing next to a pair of balance scales. Maat will weigh your heart against her famous feather. If your heart weighs less than or equal to the feather, you have led a virtuous life. Congratulations. You go to the Good Place. Heavy heart? Oooops. Your fate: not so great. 

Day of Reckoning

Maat had eight children, but her favorite was Amon (or Amun), who was later promoted to Amun-Ra. Yeah. The Big Cheese in Egypt. 

Okay, that’s a big change in the music. There’s some serious honky-tonk in the house! Let’s see, that must be. . .surely not. . .but it is. . . . .Medea! A famous sorceress in Greek mythology. 

Medea, rocking her children to sleep. Permanently.

Back in the day, Medea started crushin’ big time on some guy she met online — dude named Jason. Jason was on a quest to find the golden fleece. She promised to help him but only if he would marry her. Dude was desperate, so he agreed.  

After a lot of bloodshed and other icky stuff. Jason returned home triumphant, fleece in tow. 

Jason and Medea bought formula and disposable diapers for years — while Medea kept popping out babies. But alas, Jason had wandering eyes and he fell for the king’s daughter, Glauce. Medea, not the most forgiving gal, poisoned Glauce and her dad. And that was just for starters. According to Euripides, Medea then murdered two of her own children just for spite. Take that, Jason! Then Medea found a new husband and continued her life of creative crime. 

Medusa will probably win Most Colorful Mom category, but can she take the grand prize? 

Here to challenge her is Axomamma, an Incan deity and a daughter of the Earth Mother. She is one hot potato. In fact, she is the Goddess of Potatoes. If attacked, she can throw hot potatoes at her enemies. Whether or not she also throws catsup or sour cream is unknown. Her children are many, but apparently they are all of the spud persuasion. 

Unfortunately Axo had another engagement tonight, but here to represent her is a close relative. I understand there's a strong family resemblance. Let's give it up for Mrs. Potato Head!

Mrs. Potato Head

Well, I think that’s about it for this year’s contestants. . .oh no, wait. One more. She’s so quiet, she’s easy to overlook. Come on out here, Penelope. Yes, Dear, you. 

Penelope is best known as the wife of Ulysses, a Greek adventurer, and as the mother of Telemachus. She waited patiently while hubby was "away on business." For 20 years — yeah, right. She fought off insistent suitors who thought she should declare her husband dead and collect the insurance. But Penelope remained faithful until she and Odysseus were reunited. Good job, Girl. 

In fact, the results are in and this year’s winner of the B-MOM’s is [lengthy drumroll followed by trumpet fanfare] . . . . .

Penelope! You really deserve this, Sweetheart. No, go ahead. Take a bow. But don't dilly-dally, because one contestant is throwing potatoes and another one is throwing cats. And Medea has a murderous gleam in her eye. 

Ladies, cheer up. You will all receive participation trophies! And one lucky loser will receive the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature -- since the Swedish Academy has no other use for it this year.

Oh why do I bother? This thing always degenerates into a debacle with the sparkling, affable hostess running for her life! Happy Mother's Day, and Happy B-MOM’s until next time!

A word from our sponsor: 
Want to catch reruns of previous B-MOM ceremonies?

Image Credits:
  red carpet - © Can Stock Photo / xalex
  kitten - Author: Author:User:Maxo: assumed (based on copyright claims);
  Bastet - Author: Gunkarta; 
  Maat -   Author: Dahl assumed (based on copyright claims);
  Judgment -  Source: The Book of the Dead; Author: E. A. Wallis Budge (1857-1937);
      Public Domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the
      copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less;
  Medea - Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi;  Photographer: the same;

  Mrs. Potato Head - Author: Geof Sheppard;
  Penelope - Artist: Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Public Domain in its country of origin and 
     other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 
     years or less.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Ten Children's Books Grown-ups Should Read

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children 
is noa good children's story in the slightest." 
 -- C. S. Lewis

The books we read as children stay with us for a lifetime, but we don't have to quit reading children's books just because now we wear long pants and have adult cards at the library. In fact, children's books are for everybody. All of us have a child inside — a child that wants to play and laugh and learn.  

Here are ten books that will delight and nourish the child within.

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame

It's springtime, and Mole is doing his spring cleaning. But sun and blossoms in the breeze call him to explore the great outdoors. In time, he meets new friends  Rat, Toad, and Badger. They are always ready for a roadtrip, whether on foot or by boat or carriage or motorcar. They have many whimsical adventures on the river and in the woods. Want to feel inspired to follow your own heart's dreams? This is the book.

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"Please. . .draw me a sheep. . ." You don't expect to hear a voice when your plane has crash-landed in the Sahara. You don't expect to meet a child. And if you do, you certainly don't expect to be asked to draw him a sheep. But if you listen to his story, you will learn to love the child and to love the stars and to love this book. 

Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales, by Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle  — these animal characters are bursting with very human personality traits. They all have serious problems to solve, villains to outwit, journeys to take — the very stuff of stories.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories, translated [into English] by Erik Christian Haaugard 

The Ugly Duckling. The Emperor's New Clothes. The Little Mermaid. . . .so many wonderful stories compiled and shaped by a master teller of tales. This is my favorite translation of Andersen's fairy tales.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

A rabbit hole, a Mad Hatter, a hookah-smoking caterpillar. . .colorful iconic characters, sophisticated humor and word play,  and inspired nonsense  it's all here in mathematician Lewis Carroll's whimsical masterpiece. It's brillig!

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis

Four English children, siblings, are evacuated to the country to escape World War II. But it seems they can't escape war after all, for they stumble into another world where they meet a lordly Lion who asks them to lead a fierce battle.  In these stories, we come to know the Lion in that world, so that we can know Him better in this world.

The Book of God for Children, by Walter Wangerin Jr.

This is a great Bible-story book to share with your children and grandchildren. And it's a good overview of the whole Bible story from Creation to Apocalypse.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

This charming classic story, set in Civil War era New England, chronicles the journey of four sisters from childhood into womanhood — their friendships, loves, and life lessons.

Aesop's Fables, by Aesop

These short stories with animal characters are simple enough for children to understand and profound enough to leave a lasting impression on adults. They are an important part of our world cultural heritage.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson 

If Katherine Paterson published her grocery lists and dry cleaning receipts, I would want to read the book  she's that good of a writer. This book is fantastic, and I'm also using it to represent all the Newbery winners, such as Madeleine L'Engle, Kate diCamillo, E. L. Konigsburg — the cream of the crop of amazing children's writers. 

If you're looking for a good children's book, you can always  check the list of Newbery winners published by the American Library Association: Newbery Winners.

What was I thinking? Ten children's stories grown-ups should read? TEN? 

Actually, there are hundreds — maybe thousands — but perhaps these few will suggest the wealth of children's stories that adults can enjoy equally and appreciate more. 

Please. . .leave a comment and tell me one of your recommendations!

Image credits:
    Children reading -- Photo of painting -- The First Bible Lesson 
         -- Public Domain in the United States