Posted by: kshayes513 | January 13, 2009

Worlds I Love, Part 2

I just reread my previous post. It seemed okay when I posted it, now it seems to me an exercise in the mind-bogglingly obvious (“bogglingly”-is that a word??). Is anyone out there not trying to build a world that they themselves love?  Never mind. On to the inspirations of my childhood.

Books I read, reread and loved as a child (up to about age 12): The Hobbit, The Secret Garden, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Little House books, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, the Oz books , George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind, Peter Pan, Albert Payson Terhune’s Lad: A Dog and other dog stories, Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, Marguerite Henry’s historical horse books, Will James’s cowboy stories, and most any other horse stories I could find. I also devoured DC superhero comics, especially Superman and Batman (which is beginning to count as legitimate reading these days)

Most of these books have aged well: indeed, I still reread the first half dozen regularly. (I’m sorry to say,though, that Farley’s writing has dated, and when I tried to reread a Terhune book as an adult, I discovered he was an egregious racist, even for his day)

So what enchanted me about these books and stories as a child?

First, the people and events in them had absolutely no resemblance to my own life. I never wanted to read about school problems and friend problems, I wanted adventures!  Preferably in settings far removed from suburban Connecticut. Even the horse stories weren’t about the horses I saw every day at my mother’s riding school; they were about race horses and cow ponies and wild stallions of Arabia.

Second, the main characters often are not heroes to start, but discover that they can become heroes. I desperately wanted heroism in my life along with the adventure; maybe because heroes always seem to know what to do, and how to handle anything that life deals out. I see the hero as the person who has the most power to make the story come out right.

Third, you’ll notice that a large number of these stories also have a solid element of magic about them, even if the magic is in some cases mainly the imaginations of the children involved. Are you surprised? I hope not!

My TV watching is worth mentioning as well for inspiration, since I’m a child of the first TV generation, and have been a selective TV junkie most of my life (its no accident that I’ve made most of my writing income, covering television). I remember that I watched just about every Western on TV in the 50’s and 60’s, as well as the live action Superman, Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, The Lone Ranger, and many another half hour adventure. When TV graduated to hour long drama, I dove into shows like Combat and The Man From Uncle. Like everyone else, I watched the cartoon sitcoms  like The Flintstones, but didn’t enjoy them as much as Jonny Quest, which was chock full of adventure.  I avoided most of the live action family sitcoms–too “real life” for me, even The Munsters, which was based on the single gag that the Munsters were a normal family despite their looks.  I did love The Addams Family, though. The Addamses were definitely NOT normal!

On some level, even at that age, I was aware that there were very few female heroes, either in books or on TV. Lucy may be the heroine of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but it’s Peter that gets to fight in the battles.  That’s probably why I liked Dorothy of Oz, who in the books is cheerful, plucky and smart, not the wet blanket portrayed by Judy Garland. But in our games, my friends and I generally played male characters, because the guys got to have all the adventures.

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Responses

  1. You write:

    “I desperately wanted heroism in my life along with the adventure; maybe because heroes always seem to know what to do, and how to handle anything that life deals out. I see the hero as the person who has the most power to make the story come out right.”

    We had a discussion about heroes a while back, didn’t we? I would suggest that the heroes *didn’t* know what to do, or how to handle things. They did the best they could, and that best turned out to be right. And as for “the most power”, well, Gandalf would qualify under that idea, but Sam is the chief hero of LOTR (as Tolkien himself proposed). So I think there are heroes and there are heroes, and power to *make* things right is not always the best thing to have. As Gandalf knew!

  2. Marilyn wrote:
    “I would suggest that the heroes *didn’t* know what to do, or how to handle things. They did the best they could, and that best turned out to be right.”

    I would agree with that now. But in discussing why I wanted heroes as a child, I was also giving the child’s perception of the hero, as someone who knows what to do. Also, of course, 40 or so years ago, most adventure heroes were a lot simpler than they are now. (and don’t anyone start throwing exceptions at me. I said MOST heroes; I can think of exceptions, too. But this isn’t the place to list them.)

    As for the “most power” and the power to make things right–

    (rolls up sleeves, places power water within reach, flexes fingers and poises them over the keyboard. Drum roll please)
    >[
    >[
    >[ (those are drumsticks hitting a drum!)

    Ahh hell. There is too much. Let me sum up. Humperdink is marrying Buttercup…
    And I’ll address this in a full post. To follow.


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