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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

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Maps and Legends

My nine year old son woke up before dawn to read the last pages of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone. I peeked over his shoulder to read these beloved old words:

A Snake, slipping easily along the coping which bounded the holy earth, said, "Now then, Wart, if you were once able to walk with three hundred ribs at once, surely you can coordinate a few little muscles here and there? Make everything work together, as you have been learning to do ever sice God let the amphibia crawl out of the sea. Fold your powers together, with the spirit of your mind, and it will come out like butter. Come along, homo sapiens, for all we humble friends of yours are waiting here to cheer."

The Wart walked up the great sword for the third time. He put out his right hand softly and drew it out as gently as from a scabbard.


Everything I need to know about being human, I learned in The Once and Future King, of which The Sword in the Stone is but the first part. It is my favorite book in the whole wide world, and has been since I was a little older than my son.

I kissed his head.

"You remind me of Wart," I whispered. One of my choices of names for him was Arthur. It would have suited.

The greatest books are maps of our own journey. The characters who resonate most are proxies for our own deepest truth. In this house, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is practically a sacred text. For Patrick, it is Sam Gamgee's story, whereas for me, it is Aragorn's. One is about persistence and faith; the other, like Wart's, about becoming what you are. You wouldn't have to know either of us very long or especially well to know that those are our stories.

Who tells yours?

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14 Comments:

Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

you do with every breath!

9:01 AM  
Blogger Rowena said...

There are so many books that made me who I am that I have a hard time separating them out. One of the earliest, though, was Little House on the Prairie. It's one of the first books I read all by myself, and I read the whole series by 7.

Now, I attempt to be the author and hero of my own story.

9:17 AM  
Blogger unique_stephen said...

whh, gosh, I'm the net effect of hundreds of SciFi and fantasy novels and thousands of hours of playing DnD.

Right now I'm reading Eragon

6:25 PM  
Blogger zdoodlebub said...

I'm not (too) embarrassed to say that the novella The Body by Stephen King (upon which the movie Stand By Me was based) was a big one for me. The Secret Garden.

(Notice a theme...sensitive, impressionable kids largely ignored by the adults in their lives, clinging to their peer relationships...)

9:10 PM  
Blogger paintandink said...

Hello, I must have bookmarked your blog ages ago but am just reorganizing my bookmarks, so I am so lucky that this was your post today, because it just jumped out at me.

I want to jump up and go grab my favorite books right now. I will have to think longer, however, on why they are MY stories, because they've always been there.

9:04 AM  
Blogger tee said...

Merriadoc - for reasons of being wild & crazy in youth, dedicated to friends and fun, losing touch with all of them in my journey, then finding them again as i came home...

10:24 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

'Come, Mr. Frodo!' he cried. 'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he'll go.'

-----

Don't worry about the dishes. I'll take care of them.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Karen Maezen Miller said...

I think there is but one story. We all write it as we live it, and when we read it, we know it is true.

10:36 AM  
Blogger DonW said...

For me, it was 'Zorba the Greek', back in about 1968. I tend to be a conservative, quiet wallflower, and that book told me what fully embracing life is like. I don't always come out of my shell (so Canadian), but at least I know what it is like.

4:37 PM  
Blogger The bean-mom said...

Just wanted to say... "The Lord of the Rings" is a sacred text for me, too. And I follow closely the stories of all four hobbits--the most human characters in the book. Journey from innocence to experience, to a larger world of suffering, tragedy, and beauty beyond the borders of their little Shire... and then the return home, to a home more precious than ever before.

9:45 PM  
Blogger InsideOutHappy said...

Tonight _The Once and Future King_ comes off the shelf for an encore. Thanks for reminding me of an old favorite.

Yours are the words I am most happy to see updated in the long list of those writings I love online...

12:02 AM  
Blogger Busymomma66 said...

I've forgotten about The Once and Future King. I'm going to have to get that from the Library this winter and read it to the kids.

8:47 AM  
Blogger towerdog said...

The writings we identify with in our youth sometimes help us define ourselves as we grow older. But for some of us there is an unfoldment that takes place. In our cases the defining stories change, just as we change. If there is no unfoldment, if there is no change, if the book stays the same....... go find your parents and give them your thanks. Stability in childhood is the gift that lasts a lifetime. You must have received this gift.

11:31 AM  
Blogger kazari said...

Wow,
For the last ten days I've been driving around New Zealand, contemplating which story I could own. Your words followed me!
It's all fairytale land, around the south island - ponds where golden balls must have been dropped, lakes where ladies wait with swords. Whole landscapes built for epic journey's.
I couldn't think of a story that was me, except Eowyn, which is sad.
But I loved Sword in the Stone, and I am going to pull it out again.

8:03 PM  

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