Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Falling into rabbit holes

Giving birth seriously fried my brains, especially the first time, but it obviously gets Betsy Bird's creative juices flowing, because her posts over at Fuse #8 are better than ever.  Okay, maybe she wrote these before giving birth - but if so, that's even MORE amazing!  Jeez...

Her post rating the magical lands of 2011 fantasies in terms of whether a kid might want to visit them made me think about the lands I wished to escape to as a child.  As an adult, I rarely read fantasies, children or adult, that take place in lands so enticing that I wish I could live there - Harry Potter being the notable exception.  And really, there were very few that compelled me even as a child; there were plenty I liked to visit as a reader but would be terrified to live in or even step foot into. 

Most of those magical lands just aren't SAFE!  From Oz to Wonderland, they're brimming with nasty characters, treacherous landscapes, and tricky tests of character.  Sure, natural-born Gryffindors live to push the boundaries, conquer bad guys, and hurl themselves in the path of danger, but we Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw hybrids crave a quiet life.

The realms I wished most fiercely to visit all had one thing in common - safety.  They were - the Thousand Acre Forest Hundred Acre Wood (see? brain still fried 20 years later), the world of the Peanuts comic strip, Narnia, and (this is somewhat embarrassing) Whangdoodleland.

The first two I still find enticing enough to soothe me when I'm awake at 3 pm stressing about work - they are like those small towns you visit and think "I could live here."  Sure, you'd be bored within a couple months, but who cares?  Boredom feels like sheer luxury sometimes.

Narnia - well, who hasn't walked through a glade filled with dappled light and had the thought that maybe this is IT?  Finally, you've made it to Narnia at long last!  Okay, it wasn't so safe - but I would have found some little cozy corner with some talking mice or whatnot and just stayed out of the Queen's way.  Forget all that hero stuff.

Whangdoodleland.  Well, what can I say?  I adored The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles as a 10-year-old, especially the Whangdoodle himself with his sweet tooth and sweet smile.  The place was a little risky, but its charms outweighed the dangers.  My mother, a librarian herself, couldn't believe I loved what she considered to be a mediocre celebrity-written book, and I don't dare to read it as an adult just in case I agree with her.

What worlds did you want to visit as a child?  Do they hold the same appeal today?


  1. I really like this book too, Eva, and yes, I have read it again as an adult! (At least twice....)

  2. Oh good - then perhaps I'll be brave enough to give it a read!

  3. Sounds like a fun book--it could be a good lunch break read during a busy day at an intensely, realistically urban library.

    I'm still STILL forever & always in love with Green-Sky (Zilpha Keatley Snyder, _Below the Root_). Growing up on the North Coast I was no stranger to the magic of gazing upward at the heights of tall trees and exploring the mysterious forest floor... so my imagination was primed to love the trilogy. I played Green-Sky all the time and even wrote a song about it! I would make my own "shuba" (silk wing panels allowing people to glide from branch to branch) by tying a sheet to my wrists and ankles--and jumping off the back deck. Fortunately I never jumped off a tree; the gravity in Green-Sky isn't as powerful as on Earth! While I haven't reenacted any scenes from the book lately, nor created any fan art, I do read at least one of the books every couple years (usually following a forest vacation).

  4. I can't believe I never read Below the Root or at least can't remember doing so. It must be enticing to spur that kind of dramatic play. We used to go camping up in Big Basin or Humboldt every summer and played endless Robin Hood/King Arthur type games.

  5. I think Whangdoodles was special for folks JUST OUR AGE. I had two copies, read them both over and over and over. Still have one, which I made my daughter read, but it didn't do its thing for her. Sigh. But I still think about the High-Behind Splintercat and Scrappy Caps all the time.

  6. I wanted to live in Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood as a child which is really rather lame looking back on it.

    I hope you don't mind but I quoted you in a post I wrote on this topic today. If you do mind, let me know and I'll change it.

  7. One of my daughters liked Whangdoodles, but not to the extent I did. Oh, those Scrappy Caps! And the exhortation of the Professor to look UP instead of down...
    The Enchanted Wood is not lame, Brandy - SAFE!