Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Not long ago, I was sharing something with my youngest daughter that tied in with the story of Thumbelina. She looked blankly at me in response, and I realized that my daughters were growing up without the fanciful fodder of some of my favorite fairy tales. Having brought my girls home at the ages of 6 and 8, we had missed out on the investment of oh so many tales and yarns by which kids learn many integral truths in life - with excitement and fun wrapped up in the telling. I've done some of that, but not enough I was afraid. A few more could certainly be tucked in still. What was done could be undone quite easily, and I resolved to fill in these childhood gaps more fully. Quickly, I flew to my computer to track and reserve a few double editions of some classics, supplying us with several to choose from. You never know how the story will be told or illustrated, and I wanted full flavored stories and pictures to excite and inspire their imaginations. My girls? They began by humoring me, but were soon swept in.
I wound up using two books for every telling, and after reading from one, we would fill in our inner eye's visions with the beautiful drawings and paintings of both artists. We began with the perils of Thumbelina, beginning life as an answer to prayers, narrowly escaping undesirable matrimonial matches, dealing with the jealousy of others, and being warmed by the kindness of strangers. The sisters Snow White and Rose Red encouraged us as they forbearingly presented a united front of forgiveness and trust. Babushka, occupied by the cares and concerns of life missed the invitation to see the Christ Child, and now spreads her love and longing for him to children everywhere as she relentlessly pursues the traveling wise men. The clever Puss in Boots used his wit and wiles as the servant/benefactor of the poor youngest son, who trusted and followed his conciliere to a better life for all (except the proud tyrant of a giant, of course.)
Pinocchio proved the greatest treasure yet. Written by Carlo Collodi back in the mid 1800's, it is like many stories that are familiar to us today - it is far different in it's original form, surprising us with twists and turns all the more so because we think we know just what to expect. I found I preferred reading from this version, but we were wowed by the illustrations of Roberto Innocenti in this one. Innocenti's perspective compellingly invites and draws us in to the minute details as well as the wide encompassing scope of a scene. He truly creates a time and place and world for the reality of Pinocchio and Geppetto and the Fairy with the Blue Hair; I would readily display most any of his depictions on the walls of my own home. I found my library carries a number of his other books, and I will utilize them to expand our appreciation for this dedicated and talented artist.
However, as we came to the close of the story I noticed something in the other book, the one we'd originally preferred to a lesser degree. As Pinocchio was about to be swallowed by the shark, there was in the illustration an inconsequential turtle on the rock.... holding a small picture. We all leaned in closer and looked to see what it was; it appeared to be Jesus in a boat with the disciples at the time when they came to him in the storm. Then we noticed a bit further on - a small picture floating in the water at Geppetto's feet when Pinocchio finds him - I believe it is of Jesus and John the Baptist and the dove descending. We went back and began noticing with excitement other small finds hidden here and there, biblical correlations to events in the story, like a crown of thorns barely seen when Pinocchio is chained to a doghouse.
Quite remarkably, there is no mention of this anywhere, and it could very well be missed. But I invite you to find this book and read it - to yourself or your children - and look. Iassen Ghiuselev's quiet testimony of One who knows how we are formed because He was the one who created us, realizes we are but "sawdust", who knows and understands our each and every weakness, who forgives and forgives and forgives, who offers us a hope that does not disappoint, speaks eloquently in its silent testimony. I am sitting here in quiet wonder. My favorite fairy tale surprised me. In the language of love, it spoke enduringly of my need for my Savior, and there He was.