04 January 2014 @ 07:32 am
One chapter of Poppins and cool stuff about foxes  
First, via cofax7, a seriously cool vid and illustrated post about snow-diving foxes.

Poppins: only one chapter, due to much going on here:"The Dancing Cow."

I had completely forgotten this chapter. In fact, I'd so forgotten it, I don't remember consciously skipping it, but I am pretty sure I did, since I passionately loathed dressed-up animal stories as a kid. They made no visual sense, engendering in me the feverish anxiety that Alice in Wonderland caused, the reading of which, for me, felt exactly the same as very high fevers.

Sidestep: I hated dressed-up animal stories so much that I've recently begun reading Watership Down for the first time. More about it when I finish.

So in this chapter, a ladylike cow suddenly begins dancing, and cannot stop, a la The Red Shoes. I first had to contemplate the ladylike cow.

Here are the words with which she's introduced: The Red Cow was very respectable, she always behaved like a perfect lady and she knew What was What. To her a thing was either black or white--there was no question of it being grey or perhaps pink. People were good or they were bad--there was nothing in between. How much irony packed into these three sentences? I read those lines and had to sit there thinking about them.

Was Travers, or wasn't she, having some fun with the smug, self-satisfied body for whom "bad people" might includes such distasteful objects as murderers and robbers, but the worst opprobrium is reserved for social climbers, that is, people who don't know their place? There is something so very nice about order, when everyone knows their place, everyone knows the rules, and obeys them, right?

But then this cow goes a-dancing, and finally is forced to forget her place and dance straight to the king, busy dictating laws in an hour before going to the barber, surrounded by sycophantic courtiers (excuse me, Courtiers) who speak with one voice, and share one emotion, which is whatever the king seems to be feeling.

It turns out that the cow got a star stuck on her horn--thousands fall all the time--so she must jump over the moon to shake it off.

I think it is very possible that I stopped reading at this point, because my kid self could not bear the whimsy (or, nonsensical) idea of a cow jumping into outer space to get rid of a star, which is a sun millions of miles off--another sort of sense of wonder entirely. Because I completely missed this lovely bit: . . . she bent her head towards the earth again, she felt the star slipped down her horn. With a great rush it fell off and went rolling down the sky. And it seemed to her that as it disappeared into the darkness great chords of music came from it and echoed through the air.
 
 
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on January 4th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
I hope you have quickly realized that Watership Down is not a dressed-up animal story at all. How naturalistic its rabbits actually are is a darker question than may at first appear, but the intention is to present them as rabbits who behave like rabbits, extra-equipped only with human-level cognitive and communicative abilities, plus the one character's gift of precognition. I'll say more on this when you do.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 04:23 pm (UTC)
I've been formulating a lot of thoughts as I read. I am just past the half-way mark, and might finish in a couple of spurts once I get another chance at significant uninterrupted reading time.
Angelic Eye for the Gendered-Species Individual: vacant and in pensive moodrysmiel on January 4th, 2014 04:29 pm (UTC)
I should be very interested in seeing some of those thoughts should you feel inclined to post them.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 04:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Though right now the context is the conversation going on in literature--a kind of recoil from Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence.
marycatellimarycatelli on January 4th, 2014 06:03 pm (UTC)
I have a cousin who has never forgiven the librarians for thinking bunnies=kiddie book and filed it accordingly. He's in his forties now and still holds a grudge.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
Well, it won all kinds of children's' book awards.
marycatellimarycatelli on January 4th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
Somehow, I don't think that will move him.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 07:58 pm (UTC)
Heh!
asakiyumeasakiyume on January 4th, 2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
It was filed in the adults' section of our town library. I read it when I was mid-teen and thought myself very advanced, because I was reading an adult book.
marycatellimarycatelli on January 4th, 2014 10:17 pm (UTC)
Basically it's 1984 with bunnies. Yeah, adult.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
Whoa, I do not see that at all. (Though admittedly, just a tad past halfway.)
Ellen Fremedon: illuminationellen_fremedon on January 4th, 2014 11:18 pm (UTC)
I don't see a lot of 1984 in it beyond the obvious ways that all depictions of surveillance states, Efrafa included, are similar.

But admittedly I have found it hard to see other influences in Watership Down since realizing it's a startlingly faithful episode-by-episode retelling of the Aeneid.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 5th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
A quest fantasy, definitely But that had never occurred to me. I still don't see it--I guess because I can't figure out who the Dido figure could be.
jodel_from_aoljodel_from_aol on January 5th, 2014 05:11 am (UTC)
If you're only half-way you may not have met her yet.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 5th, 2014 09:25 am (UTC)
Cool!
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on January 5th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Not only hd public libraries shelve The Lord of the Rings in the children's section, I guess because it was a sequel to The Hobbit, but some of them also shelved The Silmarillion there, apparently because Tolkien had been established as a children's author by then. There was this huge fuss when Judy Blume published an adult novel, but a lot less when J.K. Rowling did ... I guess we've advanced a bit beyond that particular kind of pigeon-holeing.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 5th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Certainly not since YA has gone so huge (and the lid has pretty much come off adult content.)
marycatellimarycatelli on January 5th, 2014 04:21 am (UTC)
It was fantasy. Fantasy was for kids.

It's difficult to understate how much has changed in the fantasy field since about the 1970s, when it really became a marketable genre. I mean, Andre Norton's first Witch World book came out with a SFnal blurb.

Here's a good essay on it:
http://bondwine.com/2007/01/19/1977-from-zeuss-brow/
serialbabbler on January 4th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
The cartoon version of Watership Down has fantastic animation if you've never seen it. (They did alter the plot somewhat, but it's also pretty faithful to the novel. Of course, a lot of people who first watched it as children found it a tad... disturbing.)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 04:25 pm (UTC)
I've never seen it. I looked into the cover of the book when it first came out in the early seventies, saw a lot of made up words, thought in disgust, "A Tolkien ripoff only with dressed up animals," and ignored it thereafter. So I might very well be the only person of my age and general interests who has not read it or seen whatever spinoffs filmmakers might have made.
serialbabbler on January 4th, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
I can see why "Tolkien with rabbits" wouldn't sound appealing. *laugh*

I think I must have approached it more in the tradition of a political "fable" like Animal Farm than epic fantasy, but I saw the cartoon first so I knew what I was getting into anyway.
Kalimac: puzzlekalimac on January 4th, 2014 04:36 pm (UTC)
I found the movie faithful, but rather dull, which the book isn't.
serialbabbler on January 4th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
But it's so pretty. :D (And most of the animation I was seeing at the time was... not.)
serialbabbler on January 4th, 2014 04:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, and just to clarify, (though I doubt anyone was confused) I mean the film that was produced in the 1970s rather than the animated television series that was produced in the late 1990s. No idea if the art is comparable for the television show, but it seems unlikely.
asakiyumeasakiyume on January 4th, 2014 09:55 pm (UTC)
It was one of my kids' favorite movies, and the animation of the beginning sequence really affected my older daughter's art style. My kids still quote it from time to time!
houseboatonstyx: smaller-healing-buddhahouseboatonstyx on January 4th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
And it seemed to her that as it disappeared into the darkness great chords of music came from it and echoed through the air.

Ah, must read this! The diction of Nesbit, Goudge, and Charles Williams.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
The silly gives way to the numinous, just for that flash. Nifty!
Queen of the Skiesqueenoftheskies on January 4th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
Foxes are amazing creatures. I didn't realize they snow dove, though. How awesome! I love the way the fox cocks its head and watches the snow/listens before it dives. :)
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
Wasn't that awesome?
shewhomust: puffinshewhomust on January 4th, 2014 05:32 pm (UTC)
When considering the layers of irony in that Very Respectable cow, do bear in mind that it is the Very Respectable Mary Poppins who is telling the story - or perhaps her mother...

I suppose I knew, if I thought about it, that the books are sequences of short stories: I'm finding it very interesting how we each pick and choose our way through them.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 05:35 pm (UTC)
A lot of those magical children's stories were indeed a series of discrete incidents, as if portioned out for reading at bedtime.
Estara: pic#2810740estara on January 4th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
Like Dott in Rennefarre, I find ^^ -
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
YES!
nineweavingnineweaving on January 4th, 2014 08:16 pm (UTC)
When considering the layers of irony in that Very Respectable cow, do bear in mind that it is the Very Respectable Mary Poppins who is telling the story - or perhaps her mother...

For the Red Cow, the star is an unbearable gift, and then, when lost, an almost irretrievable longing. But the Very Respectable Mary Poppins has an instrinsic star, which she controls, disclosing it at will, and then denying it. She is an Apollonian figure who leads others into Bacchic ecstasies--and stands, a still point at the center of the revels, perhaps rocking slightly as they whirl. The Perfect Lady of the Dance.

"Dance, then, wherever you may be...". Then button your coat straight, tie your shoelace, and go home.

Nine

Nine
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 08:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is it precisely. But child me looked too low and too small to perceive it, while child-Nine lifted her gaze higher, and was entranced.
nineweavingnineweaving on January 4th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
Child-Nine was nowhere near that sophisticated; but she loved the books and kept re-reading them.

Nine
al_zorraal_zorra on January 4th, 2014 06:04 pm (UTC)
This is why I identify with foxes -- those spines! And human me, with such a damaged non-bendy spine .... Their glorious vision and agility, as well as their cleverness, and of course, beautiful yet entirely practical tails ... none of which I possess either!

Love, C.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
Sooo graceful!
nineweavingnineweaving on January 4th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
And having rid herself of the numinous, the Red Cow wander through world forever after, seeking her lost star...

Nine
asakiyume: turnip lanternasakiyume on January 4th, 2014 10:03 pm (UTC)
I had the same itchy, icky reaction to cutesy stories in which reality was weirdly elastic, where I couln't get a sense of defining tone (though I wouldn't have put it in those terms as a kid), and where there were jokes going on that I didn't understand. I really hated mixing tones--I could deal with nursery rhyme humor and happenings in nursery rhymes (cow jumped over the moon, dish ran away with the spoon), and they were okay for me as songs or stories in an otherwise serious work (so, for example, as songs in The Lord of the Rings), but if there was a serious fantasy story, and suddenly a cow was flying to the moon, in the actual story, I'd be very annoyed.

You're playing your cards close to your chest with your reaction to Watership Down!
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC)
It is in many ways a lovely book. But I keep having other thoughts which are more interesting to me than the story.
gwynnegagwynnega on January 4th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
I had completely forgotten that chapter as well. I suspect as a kid, I just wanted to get back to Mary Poppins and the children.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 4th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, that, too.
gillpolackgillpolack on January 5th, 2014 11:40 am (UTC)
I didn't like that chapter as a child. I re-read it today and enjoyed it more.

What I'm finding is that each chapter has a very slightly different viewpoint, and in each of them we see a slightly different view of Mary. She's a faceted diamond and we see different facets with each chapter.

Each chapter has its own mood. This makes it good for bedtime reading, but it makes it much easier to read piecemeal and to create our own links between the chapters than to sit down and read it at one sitting. I did this when I was a teen and re-reading my childhood books and I didn't look at it again for twenty years, because a seventeen year old and one sitting was an awful combination for its particular strengths. I lost the facets and the altered reality and connected the childlike elements in a kind of forgettable daisychain. I still loved the first few pages, but the rest was wasted on me at that stage.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 5th, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
That's a very good point about the long hiatus between readings.
LiveJournal: pingback_botlivejournal on January 5th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
Meet the family
User shewhomust referenced to your post from Meet the family saying: [...] naughty and has to be rescued, the one about the babies, and so on. I knew this, but as I commented [...]
Miriam3rdragon on January 5th, 2014 08:33 pm (UTC)
I will join the crowd enjoying the fox movie.

(Also, I clearly need to reread Watership Down, because my memories of my dad reading it to me mostly blur into "kind of epic, with rabbits.")
Sherwood Smithsartorias on January 5th, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC)
Do!