Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: children’s literature

The abolition of sin in children’s literature

Nowadays the lead character in a highly acclaimed book for children is apt to be a lesbian who is a practicing Wiccan. Parents have been banished from children’s books for many years, but are making a comeback in situations where a child has two mothers or two fathers. But any mention of God, Christianity or morality makes a book far too dangerous for young children.

Perhaps this started in a small way many years ago. The fairy tales of Charles Perrault, from the 18th century, were morality tales. When Little Red Riding Hood got into bed with the wolf, that was the end of her. Perrault made it clear at the end that he was thinking of wolves of the two-legged, smooth talking kind. In Cinderella, the heroine forgave her two stepsisters and found good husbands for them. Perrault’s point was that true beauty is not on the outside, but inside, in the heart. Those moral teachings disappeared in the versions of the Grimm brothers that appeared 100 years later. Little Red Riding Hood was miraculously rescued and Cinderella was well rid of her mean stepsisters.

Children’s books that depicted the value of moral purity and respect for parents went out of fashion years ago. Modern books are teaching a whole different sense of values.

On the other side are the type of conservative Christian children’s books where sin and evil have become unmentionable. Tender and sensitive children must be protected from such awful things. Many parents who think like that would be appalled to see what their children read a few years later.

Even Bible story books are getting the makeover to supposedly make themn less scary to children. David doesn’t kill Goliath, he just defeats him. The Bible says that David didn’t stop with stunning the giant with a stone from his sling, he cut his head off. That is not just gratuitous blood and gore, David did not want to see the giant get up from the ground and seek revenge. He wanted to be sure that he was well and truly dead. We need to do the same with the things that tempt us.

By either denying that anything is sinful or pretending that sin is something about which little children should have no knowledge, neither extreme prepares children to navigate the dangers and temptations of life. Children realize from quite a young age that the world is a scary place. How do we explain the dangers in the world in a way that helps them know to avoid evil and trust in the good?

C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and others have endeavoured to answer this question by creating a genre of Christian fantasy for children. As fantasies they portray dangers in a way that is not explicit, but shows that there are dangerous unseen forces in the world. Children can relate to that. Even more importantly, these books always show that evil can be overcome. The good guys in these fantasies never use the methods of the bad guys in order to win, in itself a very important lesson that is not characteristic of books like Harry Potter.

Another book in the genre is Hari & Rudi in the Land of Fruit, by English author Andrew Ratcliffe. It was published earlier this year and is available from Amazon.

 

Book Review – Talent is Not Enough

Here is the long-promised review of Mollie Hunter’s book on writing for children.  First let me warn you that this is not a “Christian” book, it is not a book for those who merely want to entertain children, nor is it a how-to book.

But it is an inspiring book. Mollie Hunter has a rare insight into the heart of a child; it is apparent from her book that being a mother was closer to her heart than being a writer. She began by writing stories for her own two children and learned from their reactions how to write words that reach the heart of a child.

She writes about the trend in children’s writing to cover topics that were once taboo. Her conviction is that since some of these topics are part of some children’s experience, it is OK to write about them if it is done with sensitivity. Then she delivers this caution:

“The distinction between the normal and the abnormal – this, to my mind, is where the dividing line should be drawn in themes for children’s writing, with all that lies on the side of the normal classed as suitable, and all on the other side as unsuitable. This, it seems to me, is where the convention of care must operate most strongly – particularly in those tender pre-pubertal years. Otherwise, the law of diminishing returns is immediately activated, and the writer will only succeed in rubbing the young reader’s nose in the dirt of the world before the same child has had the chance to realise that the world itself is a shining star.”

For insights such as this, and her thoughts on the use of language, I would recommend this book to those who aspire to write for children.

A large part of the book is taken up with thoughts on folklore, Scottish folklore in particular but her perspective can be applied to all folklore. She shares historical evidence that fairies and elves were real people, not Disneyesque caricatures with gossamer wings, but real people who were shunted aside in the migrations of peoples into new areas, yet still lived in isolated villages not far from the newcomers. These people may have been somewhat smaller in stature, or maybe not, but the difference in their customs and lifestyle gave rise to the tales that have come down to us. This insight in itself is worth the price of the book.

Talent is Not Enough, Mollie Hunter, © 1975

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