Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" on Equinox 2009! This is the moment when day and night balance. Then the beloved sun moves south to warm the other half of the world. I know they're waiting for it there!
As for me, I would be dreading the long dark, but having a backyard shrine to light will, I hope, blunt the seasonal depression.
Today's sermon: What Not to Put in a Book, What Not to Paint Black, and What You Should Do about It.
Whew! If you saw that posted in front of the local Baptist church, you'd no doubt skip the Sunday sermon!
Mr. Johnson brought home for me an advance review copy of a new novel called The Child Thief, by an author who goes by one name, Brom.
The book jacket makes clear the topic at hand. This is a horrific re-telling of Peter Pan, in which our ever-youthful hero uses duplicity to lure unwanted and/or in trouble kids out of the ghetto and off to Avalon, where they're put to work fighting ... something. I haven't gotten yet to what it is they're fighting.
What I have gotten to is a book that's repellent to me as a Pagan and as a school teacher.
First of all, I will say that the novel would be perfect for my students, except for the language and certain bits of subject matter. I don't know who edited The Child Thief, but let me just say that a novel containing all seven of George Carlin's dirty words, plus some, is not going to go into my classroom. I want to keep my job. I know it's the hip, cool thing to paint ghetto kids as foul-mouthed victims of planned violence, but the big money goes to books that can be touted in schools. I suppose this one will make the cut in suburban districts, where literary standards are more lenient. But those districts push Anne Rice, deservedly. I'm not terribly familiar with her work, but what I have read of it doesn't contain the "f" bomb and most certainly the "mf" bomb. The latter sinks the book for my use in class.
I know, I know. This is tantamount to banning a book. But soft, fair reader! If a student brings a copy of The Child Thief from home, fine and dandy. I just can't hand it around. Sorry, Brom, but you've lost some sales in Camden, New Jersey. That's what you get for demanding verisimilitude in your tough, sad, ghetto kids.
On to the subject matter. It's despicable. I've read over 100 pages, and Avalon is painted as a realm of evil, ruled by snarling beasts, flesh eaters, and bad faeries. There's a particularly repulsive scene describing sexual abuse of the six-year-old Peter. Queen Modred has just appeared, and she's foreshadowed as being manipulative and dangerous. Pixies and tiny faeries bite, sting, and urinate in peoples' mouths.
As for poor Peter Pan, he's a 1400 eternal youth, tortured in grand Lestat fashion by the mission he's been given to protect Avalon.
All ten of you who read this site regularly know that I believe in Peter Pan as an immortal youth, and in his Wild Boys, also immortal youths given the gift of eternal childhood as a reward for difficult earthly lives. Nothing could be more repellent to me than a work of fiction in which Peter -- no matter how conflicted -- is a conniving child-killer. Bad Brom. Very very bad. Your next novel should depict John the Baptist as a conflicted nutcase who drowns half his followers in the process of saving their souls.
The Child Thief is an insult to the ancient Celtic heritage and to its ancient bards, whose knowledge of Avalon and Sidhe we should rather trust. I also believe J. M. Barrie would roll in his grave to think that one off-handed line in his work would lead to a dismantlement of his charming faerie and that faerie's charming mission.
I've tried and tried, and no doubt will try again, to read The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It's just paced too slow for me. Maybe I'll be more patient in time. There's nothing slow-paced about The Child Thief. It hums along from one moment of horror to the next.
I'm sure we Pagans can survive yet another novel in which our beloved deities and their milieu get slathered with foul-smelling mud. Heck, Chick tracts have been doing that for decades. It's just sad to see, is all I'm saying. Peter Pan deserves better treatment. You heard it here.
So. What to do about The Child Thief. Don't buy it point of sale. If you want to read it and shake your head sadly at the picture it paints of all you hold dear, at least wait until you can get a cheap copy second hand. I don't normally bash authors, knowing what it's like to depend upon royalty checks. It's just that this particular author has dealt Celtic Paganism a low blow. He should therefore not expect, nor earn, Pagan patronage.
I've never been to Avalon, but somehow I don't believe that it's a place where six-year-olds are held down, sexually stimulated, and then devoured alive. If I get to Avalon and see such things, I'll be sorely disappointed in my choice of bored gods.