The Past, the Present, Good, Bad, Etc.

We are far away from home, which is nice, and we traveled here by car. And we finally—finally—decided to try to listen to an audiobook, after having heard so many people say what a wonderful car thing they are.

We'd been listening to Radiolab, which I loved, but which was a bit intense for Chestnut (the one on good and evil and the guy who invented fertilizer but also nerve gas threw us all for a loop).

But in terms of looking for books, we are of disparate ages: 11, 14, 46, 48. And so, in a last-minute not particularly energetic attempt to find something, I went to the comments on this here blog, and saw that someone recommended Peter Pan, and I borrowed it from our library, onto my iPhone, and called it a day.

This was not a popular move, it turned out. But given that I didn't have it together enough to provide us with a choice, and the 14-year-old had headphones, we sort of … went with it.

The hard cold truth of it is: I had never read the real, original Peter Pan. And I've always felt I ought to. It seemed as good a way to take care of it as any. And so we listened.

It's not that I was unaware of Disney's, well, Disney-fication, of things. But wow! It was both fascinating and exhilarating to find out just how bad Peter was. To hear, "A bunch of fairies, on their way back from an orgy…." And to find out what a nasty little piece of work Tinkerbell was. And to see that Wendy, really, is playing at being a mother, that it's all playing, and that no one—really no one—is exceptionally good.

Which made me think.

I know that there is a school of thought that those nasty old fairy tales of yore were somehow more edifying for children, that it offered them a way to process their fears and darknesses. But that just seems to be another way of trying to do things for the children, you know? As though fairy tales have a purpose. Which I am not sure about, but for me maybe misses the point?

I don't know what's better for children: Bloody, grim fairy tales, or happy saccharine fairy tales. But what I do think I know: they are more interesting. They are, I think, better books. They have at least a chance of being art.

Does that mean they're better for you? I don't know if that's even a question that's possible to answer. But they are certainly more fun.

5 thoughts on “The Past, the Present, Good, Bad, Etc.

  1. We listened to Peter Pan and I loved it! So did my kids. I love audio books, and I loved whoever read Peter Pan almost as much as the story.


  2. I prefer the non-saccharine version of things myself.
    For a series of audiobooks you may all find enjoy on the way home, try the How To Train a Dragon Series narrated by David Tenant – he does an amazing job. It’s quite different from the movie, and the third book introduces a strong and funny girl character. It may be a little young for your girls,and there’s not necessarily a lot of thinking to do when listening, but it is great entertainment for a long trip. Our whole family loves it. (Avoid the Gerard Doyle narration).


  3. My daughter read PETER PAN in 3rd grade but then got in trouble at school because she called a classmate an epithet that rather surprised and shocked her teacher.
    She explained to me (tearfully) at home later that day that Tinkerbell had called Peter a “silly ass” and she thought it was an apt description of her classmate’s behavior.
    It was one of those times where I had to work REALLY hard to keep my mouth from twitching…


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