In A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle spends a lot of time discussing the responsibility of an author of children’s books. She led a seminar with educators before writing this memoir, and many of her thoughts come from discussions they had. “Like it or not,” she wrote, “we either add to the darkness of indifference and out-and-out evil which surround us or we light a candle to see by.” The responsibility authors have toward children who read their books “is not to pretend that if we don’t look, evil will go away, but to give them weapons against it.”
There is a similar sentiment famously expressed by C.S. Lewis: “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Two authors I love and have read from childhood, and am still reading today, both agree here. It was a tough week when I read this section of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to my kids, but it was also full of hope. Evil is being exposed in the world. Many refuse to look, as if not acknowledging it will make it cease to exist. But so many more are working together to bring light into the darkness.
This section had the most frightening encounter yet in the book – the Great Green Tiger, who happens to be the spirit of that old villain, Magistrate Tiger himself! The bravery and audacity of Da-A-Fu was inspiring. They were funny and also remarkably strong and courageous, if a little foolish.
My kids especially loved when A-Fu told the Green Tiger that the other beast called him less mighty than a paper pig (apparently, that is a sick burn) and the way Da-A-Fu used the Green Tiger’s strength (anger) against him, outwitting him into destroying himself. It was impressive.
Like Minli, Da-A-Fu snuck around to do what they believed was right even though they knew their grandparents wouldn’t approve. Thinking of the L’Engle and Lewis quotes above, I wonder what tools my kids are gaining for confronting evil.
I know that some adults would see this mainly on the surface level: children are learning to sneak around and disobey their parents. But I don’t think the lessons we retain and tools we gain are so shallow. Stories penetrate more deeply than that.
My kids won’t meet the villains from their stories the way Minli met Magistrate Tiger, but I believe that they are absorbing courage and doing-the-right-thing. They may also be learning that adults are often not willing to take risks required to do the right thing, which is true.
There was so much more in these chapters! More sacrifice: the people from the Village of Moon Rain cutting off fabric from their own coats to make Minli’s. Friendship, love, acceptance of outsiders (even scary dragons). What caught your attention?
Let’s talk in the comments. I’m curious to know all your thoughts about this. What do you think about Minli, Da-Fu, and A-Fu all sneaking out to save the day? Or about Minli’s coat? I didn’t mention the fact that there are now 2 borrowed lines – do you think they’ll both be significant? And finally, do you think the stories you read in childhood prepared you to battle evil in the real world?
Next week, we’ll finish the book!
William Carey Publishing is again generously offering us a discount code for our July book! We will be reading Sacred Siblings: Valuing One Another For the Great Commission. Check out the book HERE, and use the discount code VABOOKCLUB50 at purchase.
Here’s the schedule for the book:
July 7: Introduction 1 & 2
July 14: Section 1 (Chapters 1-11)
July 21: Section 2 (Chapters 12-15)
July 28: Section 3 (Chapters 16-17 and Appendices)
Photo by Carles Martinez on Unsplash