Monday, May 02, 2005

Jemima Puddleduck

Over at The Common Room, The Deputy Headmistress has written a series of three excellent articles talking about how children can be influenced through moral and immoral examples in literature. The DHM was talking, specifically, about books for older children and up, such as Andersen's fairy tales and Jane Austen's novels.

However, Mama Squirrel feels that such influence can begin (as she is sure it does in the Common Room household) at a much earlier age. As a specific example, the youngest squirrelling, Crayons, has recently been asking for Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddleduck. Over and over again. For anyone not familiar with this story, it involves a duck looking for a secret place to lay eggs (where nobody will take them from her). She runs into a friendly fox who offers her a cozy nest in his back shed. Jemima naively goes back to visit him every afternoon, until she is intercepted by a collie dog who blows the whistle on the fox and prevents her becoming that night's dinner.

It occurs to Mama Squirrel that any child raised on that story (and Red Riding Hood would serve a similar purpose) would be in little danger of being lured by a real-world predator later on. A recent sad example of this in the Squirrel family's town involved some runaway teenagers (skinheads) flopping in an abandoned gets complicated, but the story as one of the Squirrels heard it was that one of said teenagers had to be bailed out of jail by her mother, and came home covered with fleas. Is a skinhead boyfriend to be compared to the sandy-whiskered gentleman? Maybe. In any case, Mama Squirrel's point is only that important life lessons can be taught very early on, and as the DHM says, both by good and bad examples. Better to learn from someone else's stupidity (Jemima's eggs get eaten up and she is escorted home in tears) than from your own.

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