This meditation, essay whatever was brought on by the news that Sarah Palin’s contract with Fox wasn’t renewed. And both sides are saying it was their idea. Whatever. A sorrier example of verbal illiteracy I’ve seen yet.
So, this is a bit of a departure from what I’ve been writing, but maybe not so much. Back when the boys were little we picked out a few books that we thought would be fun to have on hand to read from. Turned out to be a complete flop. Kids that wore out my Sleeping Beauty tape couldn’t sit still long enough to listen to one of Kipling’s Just So Stories. I was entranced by The Elephant’s Child. They weren’t.
My generation were probably the last to be verbally rather than visually oriented. Read Kipling. Read Dickens. They drew word pictures and your imagination was free to run riot. Dicken’s intro to A Christmas Carol is really priceless. The winter cold. The fog. The growing dark at three in the afternoon. Fog so thick it was creeping through the key hole in the door. Scrooge, who went through life with an icicle hanging from his nose in the middle of July.
The elephant’s child with his ‘satiable curiosity and endless questions setting off to find out what the crocodile has for dinner complete with a supply of melons (green) Sugar cane (purple) and bananas (the little red ones) in search of the great, grey green Limpopo River all set about with fever trees, where, he’s told, the crocodile lives. On the way he meets a bi colored python rock snake… and the crocodile. Only to find that today, he’s on the menu. And did mention that up to this point elephants had noses that looked more like a boot than a trunk?
So, here’s the elephant finding himself in the middle of a tug of war between the crocodile who has hold of his nose and the snake who’s hanging onto the hind legs with all his snaky strength and advising
“Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake scuffled down from the bank and said, 'My young friend, if you do not now, immediately and instantly, pull as hard as ever you can, it is my opinion that your acquaintance in the large-pattern leather ulster' (and by this he meant the Crocodile) 'will jerk you into yonder limpid stream before you can say Jack Robinson.'
This is the way Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk.
Then the Elephant's Child sat back on his little haunches, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose began to stretch. And the Crocodile floundered into the water, making it all creamy with great sweeps of his tail, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled.
And the Elephant's Child's nose kept on stretching; and the Elephant's Child spread all his little four legs and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose kept on stretching; and the Crocodile threshed his tail like an oar, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and at each pull the Elephant's Child's nose grew longer and longer—and it hurt him hijjus!
Then the Elephant's Child felt his legs slipping, and he said through his nose, which was now nearly five feet long, 'This is too butch for be!'
Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake came down from the bank, and knotted himself in a double-clove-hitch round the Elephant's Child's hind legs, and said, 'Rash and inexperienced traveller, we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension, because if we do not, it is my impression that yonder self-propelling man-of-war with the armour-plated upper deck' (and by this, O Best Beloved, he meant the Crocodile), 'will permanently vitiate your future career.” (Talented snake. He can do double clove hitches)
The crocodile the elephant and the bi colored python rock snake.
I loved it. My nephews couldn't be bothered. They were too busy playing Super Mario Brothers. Heck I watch movies. I watch some TV. Not as much as I used to. But, we really lost something in the transition. The old authors painted pictures with words in a way that most film just can’t match. And that most writers can’t match either. No matter how many awards they get.
And that may be part what attracts me to the Celtic traditions. The old bards and poets were masters of the word. The best of the old poets could compose a satire that would topple thrones or cause a king who chose to ignore the rules of hospitality to break out in boils. It was not wise to insult a bard.