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A Taste for Imagination and Maturity

cs-lewisPosted this quote as a note on Facebook last year.  However, having just come across it again, it is has left a fresh impression.

“It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one’s adult enjoyment of what are called ‘children’s books’. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty – except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for creme de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.” – C.S. Lewis, On Stories

A Rambling Review: The Princess and the Frog

the-princess-and-the-frog-posterAfter reading and hearing various reviews, yesterday I made my way to the $1.50 Theater to see Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.”  I have to admit that I went in expecting not to really care for the movie, and came away pleasantly surprised.  It is a good story told well, and has enough plot twists to keep it from being predictable.

Parents should be well aware that the villain, Dr. Facilier (whose name is a clever derivation from the word facile, meaning “easily accomplished or attained,” or “shallow”) is a dark and sinister character, who calls upon his “friends on the other side.”  These friends, manifest as voodoo heads and shadowy sprits, can be quite frightening for younger children, and is primarily why it will be a few years before my boys see this movie (the oldest is six).  While some parents may be upset by the clear references to the occult, however, there isn’t any doubt that they are evil.  Granted, Dr. Facilier’s initial singing performance is quite catchy and impressive, but that only adds to the lesson to be learned that sometimes evil can be very appealing (fitting perfectly with the temptation scene taking place).  In the end Dr. Facilier reaps what he sows, and his demise (another darkly intense scene) is a profound picture of what happens to those who attempt to befriend and manipulate evil.  To put it simply, the bad guy is really bad, and to have that clear demarcation in the story was oddly refreshing since so many movies attempt to blur the lines between good and evil.

Tiana, the heroine of the story, is worthy of emulation.  Raised in a loving home by her father and mother, she is taught the importance of a good work ethic, but not to the exclusion of what matters more: love and family.  Her development as a character comes to its climax when she realizes that she had forgotten her father’s instruction, and is able to overcome Dr. Facilier’s temptation as a result.

There are a number of other interesting images throughout the movie: light overcoming darkness; sacrificial death and love (evidenced even in the shallowest of characters); and a scene in which a star named “Evangeline” (which means “gospel”) is thanked by Naveen (the prince turned frog) for saving his life.

Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes is with Mama Odie in the middle of the swamp.  Dressed in white (so you know she’s good), this blind, voodoo magician plays more the part of a Pentecostal (snake-handling?) preacher who challenges Tiana and Naveen to “Dig a Little Deeper” to discern between what they want and what they really need.  While neither of them is able to correctly answer at the time, their growing relationship and influence on one another enables each of them to answer that question when it matters most.  (Naveen’s rolling up his sleeve toward the end of the movie is a nice touch along these lines, too.)

The music doesn’t rise to the level of “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty & the Beast,” but the jazz style is fun and quite fitting to the New Orleans setting.  Also, clever one-liners and animation make for some subtle humor that adults are more likely to catch and enjoy.  I do find it interesting that Caucasians are represented rather negatively throughout, even though the stereotypes are not completely unfounded.   On the whole, The Princess and the Frog is an enjoyable movie that easily provides a number of proverbial discussion points with (older) kids.

Off the Shelf: Phantastes

Phantastes CoverIn an effort to become better acquainted with the writings of George MacDonald, I decided to read his Phantastes, a work highly acclaimed by C.S. Lewis.  I have to confess it was not what I was expecting, nor, shall I say, always an “enjoyable” read.  At times the story felt quite cumbersome, and beyond my intellectual capabilities, but I could never dismiss Lewis’ words of praise.  So on I trudged, and I am glad that I did.  I will not pretend to have a thorough grasp of this work, because I do not.  Nor do I think it is possible to really be able to comprehend MacDonald’s imagery simply after one reading.  No, it is too dense for that.  For all that was difficult, however, the overwhelming conclusion that I came to was that I need to read it again.  Not necessarily tomorrow, mind you, but at a later time when I feel up for the challenge of a reflective fantasy, and can, perhaps, more greatly appreciate MacDonald’s genius.

That being said, I did notice a number of themes and patterns that emerged, and wish I had caught them sooner.  Perhaps earlier awareness would have made the opaque sections clearer, but proving that out will have to await a second reading.  So, what were some impressions?

  • The prominence of mirrors and reflection. This is something I wish I had picked up on sooner, but for about the last 100 pages MacDonald made frequent use of this imagery.
  • Anodos, the main character, goes through a number of “water ordeals” that almost have a baptismal/cleansing imagery about them.
  • This is a “coming of age” story in many respects, and arguably of one coming to age through faith in Christ (based on the ending, which I will not disclose).
  • Related to the point just mentioned, I almost wonder if MacDonald didn’t have Spenser’s The Fairie Queene in mind as he wrote his story; in the sense that Anodos meets and is apprenticed by the Red Cross Knight.
  • White is a very prominent color in the story, and there is an interesting Passover imagery (red marks on the door) later on that is significant.
  • There seems to be a recapitulation of the story within the story that MacDonald uses to provide the reader with clues about where his story is going, and its overall purpose.

Readily admitting my limited observations, I would gladly welcome further insights on this work  If you have some, please share them.

The Lord’s Excessive Behavior?

If my information and calculations are modestly close to being correct, then the 174 snowflakes per square inch (which seems low, but I’ll go with it), calculated with the approximate 50 inches of snow that have fallen on the District of Columbia (a land area of 2000 sq. miles), lead to a grand snowflake total of 69,852,119,040,000,000.  Translation: 69 quadrillion, 852 trillion, 119 billion, 40 million snowflakes.

And I suspect each and every one of them was laughing as they fell.

(I know, I know, I didn’t show my work, but it was checked by the teacher before I turned it in.)

Off the Shelf: North! or Be Eaten

North!Last night our family finished North! or Be Eaten, by Andrew Peterson.  What an adventure!  It is the second installment in “The Wingfeather Saga,” and has a very different feel from the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.  While enjoyable in its own right, Dark Sea bears the weight of setting the stage for the  saga, and may not overly impress readers the first time through.  However, it is well worth it in order to continue the story in North! Mr. Peterson’s weaving of the tale keeps readers on the edge of their seat throughout the entire book, making it hard to stop – even pushing back bedtime for our two boys on quite a few nights as a result.  The development of the characters, and the reader’s ability to connect with them is a mark of the depth of Mr. Peterson’s story-telling abilities, and has one family eagerly anticipating the next chapter in the adventure.