Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Taking a little interest

From an early age, I've been fascinated by tiny things. I was drawn to objects like jewelry charms or dollhouse furniture, especially if their maker took the time to get the details right, and I'd spend ages examining and playing with them -- the tiny silver treasure chest with a lid that opened and closed, the three-inch lamp that actually lit up if you plugged it in, the minuscule teacup and saucer that could be balanced on the tip of a finger.

It wasn't just small objects that held my interest, either. I can remember lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and entertaining myself by thinking about what it would be like to wake up and discover that overnight I'd somehow become five inches tall. What new things would I notice at that height? What would the texture of the bedsheets be like? Would food taste different; would water feel different? How could I get off the bed and down to the floor? Would the family cat try to eat me?, etc., etc.


And because I was an early reader, I devoured story after story about tiny people. I much preferred stories to films, which never seemed to get the details just right. Fairies and leprechauns were acceptable fare, but I was far more interested in stories about human (or human-like) beings with the same kinds of loves and fears, problems and annoyances that I had -- only with the added difficulty of getting by as very small beings in a very large world. I relished stories like Thumbelina and The Borrowers and The Indian in the Cupboard and numerous others like them. I was completely aware such beings didn't really exist, but I often wished they did.

One of my favorites, read when I was just at the cusp of teenhood, was Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White. The book is still somewhat obscure, which surprises me -- not only is it a fun read, but it's remarkably well-written. It's the story of a girl named Maria who finds a colony of Lilliputians in exile on the property of her family estate, and how she and they manage to get along. Not only is it a good story, but it brings up some worthwhile philosophical questions: is the quality of being human determined by one's size, one's utility to others? Is it acceptable to boss and bully others around just because one can? What is the proper way to "help" others, particularly when the people you want to help are determined to get along just fine on their own, thank you very much? Not only are these questions posed with regard to Maria and her relationship to the Lilliputians, but they are also posed with regard to Maria and her relationship to the hateful, bullying adults who are her guardians. It's obvious White spent some time considering these questions.

Miss V's recently-kindled obsession with all things Alice in Wonderland has led her to create and sell a number of Alice-related necklaces and bracelets to friends at school. Almost all of them have tiny glass "Drink Me" bottles attached. As I was helping her with these, it occurred to me that in a place like Wonderland, where growing and shrinking was commonplace, an individual's relative size would cease to have any importance. It would be extremely foolish to dismiss a three-inch-tall being as harmless, for instance, if that being could grow to thirty feet or more in a few seconds. Likewise, cowering in fear at a giant would make little sense if the giant could easily be brought down to size (so to speak).

Yes, I'm aware that I overthink these sorts of things. That's probably why I got into writing in the first place.

5 comments:

LDahl said...

I'm like you, tiny things always interested me. I still have miniatures collected as a child. The stories were some of my favorites too. My grandchildren have just learned of The Borrowers through the movie. They Love them as much as I loved the books.

Jaleta Clegg said...

I used to lie upside-down off the couch and wonder what the world would be like if the house were suddenly turned upside-down. How would you walk on the ceiling? What about light fixtures? How would you climb the stairs? I also loved the Borrowers.

Soozcat said...

Betty MacDonald must have wondered the same thing... in her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, the house is built upside-down on the inside.

matchstickgirl said...

hee hee hee
yes

I am there ...through the looking-glass and wondering why the world on the other side is soooooooooooooooo full of tax receipts .....

i like this blog ...
and I like your writing ...


:D

Soozcat said...

Thanks very much for coming by! I hope you'll find the time to return.

And thanks again for letting me use your Thumbelina image.