Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review of The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane

This is a story for brats. I mean that in the best way. It’s a story about a child’s doll learning about love…the hard way.

Near the beginning of the story, Grandma Pellegrina tells one of the most fabulous “you’ll-poke-your-eye-out” sort of cautionary tales that I’ve ever heard. I committed it to memory for all the little brats, besides my own, I’ll meet with in my lifetime. Here it is in brief:
There once was a princess. She was selfish and didn’t love anyone besides herself. A prince visited and gave her a ring to show his affection for her. But in a petulant fit she swallowed the ring and ran away into the forest. She grew hungry and came upon a small hut. She didn’t know it was a witches hut. The princess knocked, and the witch told her to go away. The princess persisted, and the witch turned her into a wild boar. The princess ran away, was caught by the royal hunters, and brought into the royal kitchen. The royal chef butchered the boar, and served it up, but not before she found a ring in the stomach. She put it on her finger.

The end.

The point? Any story without love has a bad ending.

I’m keeping that one in my back pocket. Now, granted, this could be construed as a story about a princess who was pressured into marrying someone she didn’t love and was establishing her independence and sense of self-worth by running away. But the grandma telling the story said that she didn’t love anyone, and so I assume that she was intended to be understood as cold-hearted and not merely taking a stand for women’s suffrage.

Anyway, the story of Edward Tulane growing to love and desire companionship is intended as the antithesis to the stupid princess story, and I think it does a fine job of it. I read it to my 7 year old daughter, and we had a lot of fun with it. Lots of moral lessons. And it didn’t hold back either, as it dealt with issues like poverty, death, old age, abuse, addiction, and bullying. Good talking points.

Edward’s ‘journeys’—he never actually moves or talks, only thinks, because he is a doll after all—takes him all over, from the top of a scarecrow’s perch, to the bottom of the ocean. I loved his constant yearning to see the stars, as if the stars were what reminded him that he is always home, and always a part of something beautiful and enduring, even when he feels buried in a garbage landfill…which he was. By separating Edward from all his comforts, and later by removing him in tremendously heartbreaking ways from those he actually grew to love, the author helped the reader begin to grasp the transitory nature of life and relationship. The message, glaring and potent, was that you can’t hold on to people forever, though you need to as long as you can; and you have to begin to trust in yourself and life/God/nature that you will find love again. In other words, the author’s message seemed to be that true love is not in the ‘something’ that is loved, but is in the very act of loving, and this is found in the heart of a lover, no matter who is around, and no matter the circumstance. More than affection for one person, love was broadened into love for people you haven’t met yet, love for the changing scenery of our experiences, love for the beauty that always surfaces from the ugliness. True love that anchors a soul is love for life in its entirety with all its chances for joy, beauty, and relationships. I would also add that this includes a love for one’s own self, often last to be loved, but which holds the key for loving all things outside of self.

So, obviously, my daughter may not have gotten all of that out of the book, at least not consciously anyway; but she did learn that if she’s a brat she might spend a night in a landfill. Wait. No. She learned that without love, the story of life does not end well; but WITH love, life, with all of its adventures, is a beautiful story.

Next up, Pinocchio—a story about a blockhead who gets his feet burned off after he kicks his dad in the nose. And stuff like that.

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