While waiting for a train, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sucked back into a much-changed Narnia to help the rightful Prince Caspian regain his throne. I’ve realized that for me the most lukewarm sections of the Narnia books are the battles, which Lewis relates either through dialogue, summary, or another distancing mechanism. With World War II a recent memory in 1951, these battles are clearly important to Lewis, but fail to capture the modern imagination. A shame, since the rest of this is quite immersive, with the Christian symbolism once again revealed in a more controlled manner.
Another children’s classic I never actually read as a kid, the original Peter Pan holds up solidly in its story, characters, and playful writing style, but not in its cringeworthy turn-of-the-century descriptions of Native Americans. Barrie also inserts some distinct undertones for careful readers, such as the rivalry between Wendy and Tinkerbell for the clueless pre-pubescent Peter, the Darling parents’ obsession with doing everything society expects of them, and Hook’s being a former prep school kid, along with an epilogue (left out of the Disney version) that explores what it really means to outgrow the carefree adventures of youth.
Things I learned from reading/rereading these four stories:
- In the original tale, Aladdin, far from being a purehearted street rat, is an “idle, careless” boy who through the adventure of the lamp becomes a responsible, skilled adult man.
- The forty thieves dismember Ali Baba’s greedy brother into four separate pieces so that the local cobbler has to sew him back together, which is badass.
- The Sinbad stories are kind of repetitive, and made me want to watch the Ray Harryhausen films.
- Like in all good stories, servant girls are always more clever than their masters.
I like reading myths from other cultures because they capture the familiar spirit of the Greek myths with new sets of heroes. Ancient Sumer’s Gilgamesh is no exception: our hero befriends a sidekick from the wilderness, journeys through forests to slay a deadly monster, grapples with a jealous goddess, and seeks the prize of eternal life. There’s even an ancient flood that shares more than a few similarities with the Biblical one. Editor N.K. Sanders also provides a lot of textual background in her introduction, padding out the Penguin edition since the myth itself is so short (60 pages).
Where I Got It
Bought used at a local book sale, October 2012, making it one of the longest-running books in the stack.
Background to the Epic of Gilgamesh on Wikipedia
The entire Epic of Gilgamesh in PDF form