09 July 2009

Adventuring. Or Not.

I've been enjoying Penny Arcade's recent comic series on The Lookouts, a boy scout-like troop in the magical forest of Eyrewood. (The Lookouts series is here: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5)

And then this morning I read the really splendid essay by Michael Chabon in The New York Review of Books: Manhood for Amateurs.

To top off, there's also The Exhausted Aptocrat on XXFactor.

It seems to me there's an essay of my own in there somewhere, but I got lost in Google trying to locate the tiny brick building that marked one of the further points on my childhood map (a half mile from home and yes, I was allowed to walk there myself but I had to ask permission/tell my parents where I was going). I did find it:

View Larger Map

One of the great frustrations of my own girlhood was that the literary Wilderness of Childhood was almost exclusively the domain of boys. I didn't begrudge them their place in it, but I did begrudge them their apparent ownership of it. Boys got to go into the forest and have adventures; girls sat around and waited for the boys to come rescue them. Why on earth, I wondered, did it not occur to Rapunzel to cut off her own hair and get the hell out of that tower? I lost my temper with Andrew Lang at an early age when a young lady in one of his stories was 'naughty' and had to seek forgiveness for daring to do something (an entirely harmless something) on her own initiative. Horrors!1

Of course, I saw and was frustrated by plenty of exhausted little aptocrats during my career as a teacher. The idea of studying or exploring something simply for the pleasure of it was alien to the poor creatures, as was the notion of trying and failing. They really did believe that trying should always, always result in success. I hope that they're able to discover joy and give themselves permission to fail as they get older.

I wish I had a bang-up ending here, but about all I have left is a hope that, should Penny Arcade go back into the world of the Lookouts, they spend some time on the Daughters of the Eyrewood, too, and that the girls get to have a real adventure.

1I've made peace with other writers who tried my patience, but I'm still not reconciled with Lang. The horrible treacly poem he wrote about St Andrews -- which was emblazoned on the walls of every B&B and tourist trap in town -- hasn't helped him, I'm afraid.

edited 5 pm to add some links

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