A Writerly Blog
I must admit — Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is my second favorite classic novel. Jane Eyre is my first. I also need to admit that I’ve never read it (it’s on my list), but I’ve watched numerous film versions. And I see the thread of hope running through them all.
Obviously, an author writes from his own worldview. He can’t help it. So, when I discovered Hugo’s quotes, that became clear. I also found the word HOPE in these quotes. No, you may not see the word, but each one reveals an element of hope.
Last year I read The Brontë Sisters: the Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne by Catherine Reef. It was recommended by a fellow children's picture book writer, but, for the life of me, I can't remember whom. But, thank you. It was a good read. So, I thought I would share my writer's POV on this classic, along with quotes from Reef's book.
Although it is a YA book, the content is meaty enough to get a glimpse of the cloistered and dark lives of these three authors, and sense the similarity of their environment to their best-selling books as follows: "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights" and "Agnes Grey" respectively.
I could feel the wind blowing across the moors, and sense the weight of their depressing lives. Since writing was not the proper vocation for women in those days, these girls took on pen names. Charlotte was Currier, Emily chose Ellis, and Anne, Acton. . . and all with the surname of Bell. Escaping their mundane existence, the three invented and imagined a host of characters and kingdoms. They lived and breathed life into them as they put pen to paper.
I just watched a movie some would call a ‘sleeper.’ To those from this latest generation, that word is outdated. But, I’m sure they could come up with another term to describe Goodbye, Christopher Robin. I would call it a gentle film, one that grows into its own significance. It’s ‘slow’, or maybe even ‘long and drawn out,’ but definitely worth the watching.
Whether most of the details are accurate or not, I do not know. But it is based on the life and inspiration of A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. Milne has come home from the ‘war to end all wars’ with shell-shock, and desperately needs to forget the past. After being left alone for two weeks with his son, Christopher Robin, he finds solace in the country taking walks and watching ‘Billy Moon’ (his son’s nickname during his childhood) play make-believe with his stuffed animals. Soon, Milne’s proverbial writer’s block disappears as he begins to capture this imaginary world on paper.
But, I will stop here, not wanting to spoil the ending for you!
By the end of the movie tears flooded my eyes. So many thoughts began to swirl in my head: Should a writer sacrifice his family for a greater cause? Is it wise to place your child in the limelight? Is it best to ‘write what you know’? Do we ever realize what our actions truly beget until the end? I can’t answer these questions for you. Only one’s conscience and conviction can.
I got to thinking of other stories written for the same reason: to take people’s minds off the horrors of war. Folks needed a place to escape. A place to heal. And a place to grow in understanding God and the world.
So, I looked up the top movies from the post war era (40’s and 50’s). Although many were focused on the war itself, (and surprisingly, mysteries were popular as well), here are three I would say gave hope and an opportunity for escape):
It’s A Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Can you think of others?
Then, I turned my thoughts towards children’s books written post-war, and came up with a number to fit the ‘take our minds off the war and it’s effects’ category. Some, of course, were set during the (Second world) war, such as The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, but others brought the reader to a safe place— one that spoke of home, security and simple joys. Or, they carried one away completely with lighthearted humor:
A Bear Called Paddington
Little House on the Prairie
Cat in the Hat
Make Way for Ducklings
The Little Prince
Can you add to this list?
So, as a writer myself, I often ponder the reason I write. Sometimes it’s to inform. Sometimes to teach. Always to inspire. And at times to cause my readers think, Wow! That’s amazing. I didn’t know that!
And just maybe, to smile at the odd and clever things in life. . .
What is your raison d’être?
A few years back, I did some shopping in our local mall (formerly the largest in the nation, at a time when malls were a new concept.) I, of course, expected to see the typical Santa scene, with lines of tots waiting to sit on the lap of a grandfatherly figure to share their most-wanted wish list.
But what I found was the "Ice Palace". Hmmmmm. That's unusual. I thought. Where's Santa? And who will be inside to greet the children when they reach the interior of the palace?
And then a chill came over me. And thoughts of the White Witch in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. She had placed a spell on Narnia, so it was "Always winter, but never Christmas." A harsh environment with no hope of joy, peace and celebration.
Edmund encounters the White Witch riding on a sleigh pulled by white reindeer. He has stolen away from his brother and sisters, curious of this "witch" spoken of by Mr. Beaver. And, because of his rebellious spirit, is intimidated when Aslan, the true King of Narnia's name is spoken. Queen Jadis is aware of a prophecy that will foil her plan, and bring Christmas back to Narnia. Four human children, Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve, will have a part to play in the return Aslan who will save Narnia from the harsh, cold spell it is under.
So, she is thrilled when she finds Edmund on the road. The White Witch entices him into her sleigh, and proceeds to fill him with his favorite treat: Turkish Delight. (When you have tried this rose-flavored delicacy, you will understand why!) She distracts him, so he indulges himself with more and more candy, until that is all he can think about. This greed causes Edmund to betray his siblings to the Queen of Narnia. Secretly, she plans to destroy them, and thus prevent Aslan from bringing back Christmas.
And that's when it hit me. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year are being distracted by the goodies of this world. Stuff. Celebration. Santa. Food. And more stuff.
But what about Christmas? Have we forgotten about the Christ Child? The one who came to earth to save it from Satan's power? To bring freedom, joy, light and forgiveness?
I think so.
In Matthew 2: 9-11 it says:
"After hearing the king, they (the Magi) went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
What gift will we bring to the feet of the Christ Child? How will we worship Him today?
I hope I will give Him my heart, and not a wish list. I want to worship the God of the Universe. Not the god of pleasure and possessions. I want to worship the King. . .
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuts Spring of 2019 with Ambassador International.