Sunday, August 06, 2006

Paradise in Children's Stories: Lewis and Burnett

If the vision of paradise awakens desire, then successfully creating a vision of paradise ensures a place amongst the classics.

C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia offers a wide variety of glimpses of paradise, from the creation of a new world to a midwinter dance involving snowballs to a dazzling underground abyss growing live gems at the bottom of the world. This glimpse of paradise is from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader beyond the sea to the edge of the world, but here on an island not quite yet at the world's end.
"I am a star at rest, my daughter," answered Ramandu. "When I set for the last time, decrepit and old beyond all that you can reckon, I was carried to this island. I am not so old now as I was then. Every morning a bird brings me a fire-berry from the valleys in the Sun, and each fire-berry takes away a little of my age. And when I have become as young as the child that was born yesterday, then I shall take my rising again (for we are at earth's eastern rim) and once more tread the great dance."
F. H. Burnett's The Secret Garden is an exercise in paradise to itself, even if a little overdone for today's tastes. Though the garden itself is so enchanting that I can hardly read it without wanting to pick up my gardening tools, it also does an excellent job of picking up on the motif of the feast of paradise.
The morning that Dickon -- after they had been enjoying themselves in the garden for about two hours -- went behind a big rosebush and brought forth two tin pails and revealed that one was full of rich new milk with cream on the top of it, and that the other held cottage-made currant buns folded in a clean blue and white napkin, buns so carefully tucked in that they were still hot, there was a riot of surprised joyfulness. ... Roasted eggs were a previously unknown luxury and very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter were fit for a woodland king ...

Previous in the Visions of Paradise series:
Van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece
Tolkien's Lothlorien
Coleridge's Xanadu

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