I have often felt sorry for modern boys and young men. They have so few chances to kinesthetically apply their problem-solving skills.
So few opportunities to be a hero.
Watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids a few years ago was the first time I really thought about this.
The greasy teenage boy changed from lazy and purposeless into a confident leader. I had to wonder how many of the high school guys I knew could have been marvelous rather than eye-rolling if they’d had the opportunity.
It’s started a new point of interest in my folktale collecting:
I’d really like to find some über-manly tales of knights and princes. The type that dominate the scene, according to the authors compiling books of women-centered folktales.
I guess I haven’t been paying enough attention up till now, because most of the stories I find don’t raise men nearly to the level women reach in their corresponding tales (trickster tales being the exception).
Even Cinderella, Snow White and The Sleeping Beauty— castigated as being about passive women– are still just about the women. I’ve noted before that in these stories the man is merely the accessory. A part of the packaged fantasy played out in the fairy tale.
Granted, I’m familiar with a lot of tales where a youngest son or some poor young man who is all alone is kind to the right person, finds the right friends, follows the advice of the wise man (or woman), and gets the girl, the gold or the kingdom, but they only rarely feel heroic.
Bryan Davis, the author of the Dragons in our Midst series (and another) wrote a fabulous article about the heart of heroism in boys and girls, and how naturally it plays out in line with the roles God ordained: Champion and encourager. Protector and helpmeet.
Read it. It gave me goosebumps (if that’s any additional recommendation).
So far in my brief search I have found two noteworthy books that I expect to buy by the time Elisha is a pre-schooler:
The title story from Lady of the Linden Tree is another good example of what I’m looking for, and is among the half-dozen or so of Picard’s tales I’d love to see in picture book format.
The Black Falcon, changed from its original incarnation in the Decameron, becomes a tale of sacrifice, about loving a person over a possession. The other is about a fierce battle, with honor, faithfulness, and the happy ending.
I’m keeping my eyes open for more like these, because as nice as it is to see the triumph of “the little guy,” I think it’s good, too, to have heroes that are larger than life.
My girls love their picture books with the pages of beautiful ladies and journeys that they can see themselves on. I want to give my son the same opportunity to identify with men of honor and bravery.
Yes, I hope to teach my son gentleness, but I also want to equip him with stories and images he can admire; those showing the proper use of strength and power.
And, yes, I suppose I just haven’t looked enough in the right places.
If you want to point out any of those that you’ve admired yourself, I’d like to hear it.
I’ve actually avoided the Arthurian stuff up till know because of the adultery and mixed mores that run through the heart of what I’ve always seen as the “main” story.
But especially while E’s young I suppose I can pick and choose any good stuff and try to avoid the chaff.
I loved the article and I love the thoughts. And I’m trying to think of stories that I know. I’m going to have to think on this one for a while.
You have your own website. Sweet!
Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever be hungry enough to eat kittens but you never know about the whole pregnancy thing.
I’m going right over there to take a look. I’ve never heard of those 2 books. I’ve heard of St. George and the Dragon, but not the other one. I’m going to look at those too.
Favorite line in Davis’s essay:
“Fantasy is not a lie, because it doesn’t pretend to be true.”
That’s so good.
I just had a discussion about this with a friend who was recently married–about how modern media/movies portray men as nothing more than frat boys of whom nothing much is expected. Where are our heroes? Where is the modern equivalent of King Arthur, Beowulf, or Spartacus? (Okay, the song “I Need a Hero” is running through my head now.) I guess that’s why I like writing strong, gentlemanly heroes in my romances. The kind that are so rarely portrayed in current movies/TV shows. The kind I, personally, am still praying for in my real life!
That Bryan Davis article is excellent. Thanks for the link.
I’ve just started reading the first Harry Potter book, now that the series is finished (I hate cliffhangers). I’m curious to see what the hubbub over the books is all about.
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I just ran across your site (through a link to the Prince Caspian review) and couldn’t help but post some of my favorites.
The Phantom Tollbooth – a top pick
The Kitchen Knight – by the same duo who brought you “St. George”
Men of Iron
Wings of Dawn
The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
The Door in the Wall
The White Company
The Sign of the Beaver
Thanks for the suggestions AK!
I am familiar with several of these, and agree they are encouraging examples.
For the purposes of the post I believe I was thinking of picture books (since that’s where my son is at), but I’m happy to make notes for the future.
I do have to disagree a bit about The Kitchen Knight, though. I had high hopes after Saint George, but was disappointed at the attitudes.
One of my “pet peeves” about the way women are portrayed as “strong” in the literature of the last, hmm 20 years? Is that they frequently define themselves in opposition the male, rather than as his partner, or someone with strengths where he is weak.
Adding to the confusion of mixed messages inherent in the story, I couldn’t tell who ended up with the KK. My girls asked (we got the book from the library) and I really wasn’t sure.
The message of the story can significantly change, depending on the answer to that question.
The Water of Life is another nice fairy tale illustrated by Hyman.