City Journal Winter 2014

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Winter 2014
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Stefan Kanfer
The Uses of Enchantment « Back to Story

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So we can expect Pullman next to omit Shylock from Shakespeare, discreetly. Things are getting better and better.
I have not read Pullman's Dark Materials series because Pullman said that he loathes the Narnia books and rejects Christianity (I think he may have used more hostile words) and wrote them to oppose or attack it. Maybe I am being too hostile. Anyway, I would like to know if any Christian readers have reactions to his series. Kanfer is certainly laudatory.
Pullman is a hack and a bigot, as his "Dark Materials" books clearly demonstrate. I'm astonished to see this positive review in City Journal.
Tolkein wrote tellingly on the topic as well; he states that the unspecific adjectives allow for each reader to fill the description with their own touchstones of meaning based on their first impressions of things 'golden' or 'red' etc.
Nicely done. Will post a request to our library tomorrow. Thank you.
A very enjoyable review of a book which I am most certainly going to order as a gift to myself.
It's sad to see what Disney, Pixar and the like have done to so many traditional folk tales, handed down as childrens' stories, although the original stories were certainly not for children.
This review brought to mind the very first book that my mother bought for me. I was an early reader, reading the daily newspaper that was delivered to our house by the time I was five (I don't remember who taught me to read, I kind of remember always being able to read, which, of course, is not possible). My mother had gone up the block of our blue collar neighborhood to what today whould be called a garage sale. Back then it was just some neighbor cleaning out the house for whatever reason, possibly because of the need to raise a few dollars for the week's groceries. My mother brought me home a thick volume of Grimms' Fairy Tales. I still remember '50 cents' written in pencil on the outside front cover. The cover was beginning to break, the binding was holding on for dear life, and the yellowing pages inside were flaking off at the corners. I never looked at the publication date, Time doesn't mean anything to a five year old. My guess today is that that book even back then, sixty two years ago, was well into its second half century, at least.
The book contained all of the stories that we know so well today - Hansel and Gretel, Little Read Riding Hood, the Little Mermaid - are three that I remember. I do not recall the other stories, except for the Brave Little Soldier, which was a little wooden painted soldier boy that came to life at night.
What I also remember, very well, was that these stories were very, very gory. Hansel and Gretel end up pushing the wicked witch into the oven in which she had planned to cook them, and they watch as she writhed and sizzled to a burned crisp, described in great detail. The Little Mermaid exchanged her mortality for a pair of human legs and one night on land with the sailor she loved. The next morning she dies and is turned into white foam on the waves. The woodsman enters grandmas house, kills and dismembers the wolf which had just eaten grandma (no, grandma does not pop out of the wolf's stomach alive and well in this original story) and rescues LRRH. And the Brave Wooden Soldier is thrown into the furnace by the little boy, and burns up (I do not remember why the little boy did this).
Strong stuff for a five year old. These stories go deep into Europe's past, and most likely are the direct descendants of oral traditions of the people who inhabited the forests and villages of Dark Age Europe. Sadly, I do not have this book anymore, it disappeared decades ago.