Monday, March 10, 2008

Kid Lit - Death and Release

For me, the most moving scene in The Golden Compass series, was the moment when Lyra and Will release the now decrepit ruler of the universe from his crystal “cage”, the wind catches his form and dissipates him in a moment of release, not sadness. Likewise, the souls freed from the underworld experience a release and reunion with the matter of the universe when they return to the surface. Given his atheistic bent and statements, one can assume that Phillip Pullman, the author, meant this aspect of his work as an answer to the resurrection claims of the Faithful.

At the end of The Spiderwick Chronicles, we have the scene where Arthur Spiderwick, imprisoned timelessly by the Elves, is reunited with his now 80-year-old daughter, Lucy. Arthur may not touch his foot to the ground lest all his years come on him at once and reduce him to the dust that he would be but for his sojourn under the fairies’ power. In the movie treatment the elves transform the aged Aunt Lucille back to the little girl, Lucy, Arthur had left behind decades before and allow the two of them to dwell in timeless bliss forever.

Not so the book. Arthur Spiderwick says something to the affect of “I have overstayed my span of days.” He whispers something to his alarmed daughter and then steps forth onto the earth of the fairy glade and, indeed, returns to the dust from which he came. His daughter stands, dry-eyed. Would that we knew what Arthur had told her, eh?

This would traditionally be considered pretty heavy stuff for children’s literature. I am not sure what to make of it. J K Rowling was pretty cagey on the topic in spite of the claimed “unavoidable” religious themes. Pullman has obvious motives (that I might applaud). Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (Spiderwick) might just have lifted their scene from Pullman but that decision would remain deliberate. Are we in the midst of a campaign to redefine the way we view death and the way in which we teach it to our children? Would that Jerry Falwell were still alive!

No comments: