Child hero in world literature Essay
M. Harrington 1The image of a child hero or trickster is seenin many cultures. This kind of role can tell a lot about how a cultureacts and reacts to things. The idea of the child hero in storieswritten and told before the birth of Christ probably reflect thepeoples beliefs that the child is the future, and therefore carriessome sort of power or gift. For stories that were written after thebirth of Christ, the child could reflect the idea stated above, or itcould also be the peoples belief in an infant savior, that a child willmake everything right again.
Whether the story comes from before Christ or after,the one uniform aspect about these stories is that they are presentin every culture, all around the world. The image of the tricksteris also very prevalent in the different cultures. It is seen in manydifferent fables and moral-based stories. You cannot go against the Philistine, you are but ayouth, and he has long been a man of war(Metzger 145).
This iswhat King Saul of Israel said to David when he proposed that hefight the Philistine warrior Goliath. The story of David and Goliathis quite possibly one of the oldest child hero stories. It was part ofthe Bible, in the Old Testament. In this story a young man namedDavid proposes to the king of Israel that he fight and attempt to killGoliath, the giant that had been plaguing Israel. The king agrees,however hesitantly, and David goes on to slay the beast using just aslingshot. Whilethis story is not one that was made up, it still M. Harrington 2shows us that the ancient Hebrews believed in the fact that a child,or in this case teen, has the will and motivation to do theimpossible.
Staying on the eastern side of the world, we will nextsee examples of Russian stories. In the former Soviet Union, a lot ofthe time stories, books and other types of art were hard to come by.
In a broader sense, though, recent years have witnessed genuinecultural enrichment, as Gorbachevs glasnost policy permitted theworks of previously forbidden writers, artists, andcinematographers to become accessible(Grolier Multimedia). Afterthe public was able to get at the mass of stories that had been keptfrom them, there was even more of an increase of books and other forms of art. The Russian people now had much more of anincentive to write. In a certain village, not near, not far, not high,not low, there lived an old couple with one little son namedIvashko(Wyndham 32). This is the line that begins the story of Ivashko and the Witch. This story takes place in a small village inRussia, and the main character is a small boy named Ivashko.
Ivashko was a very independent boy who wanted to go of on hisown and go fishing. He begged and pleaded with his parents, andfinally they gave in. His father built him a canoe and off he went.
Ivashko was doing well while he was fishing, but and one point waslured to shore by an evil witch. The witch grabbed him and tookhim to her house deep in the woods. She showed him to herdaughterandtheydecidedthattheywouldeathim.
M. Harrington 3At this point the witch left to get some of her friends. Ivashko seizedthis opportunity, and when the witches daughter went to sit downon a shovel in order to demonstrate to Ivashko how to do it, hethrough her into the fire. He then left and ran up a tree. The witchfound him and started gnawing at the tree. Luckily for Ivashko, aflock of geese was flying overhead and one flew down to sweep himup. Just as he left the tree fell over on the witch and all her evilfriends, crushing them. Ivashko lived happily ever after. This showsthat in the Russian culture there is a presence of the child hero, andeven shows the image of the trickster in the way Ivashko tricked thewitchs daughter into showing him how to sit on a shovel. Ivashko isa hero in this story not only because he killed the witch, butbecause he rid the lake and the woods of the evil that kept mostpeople from going there. Although this isnt one of the newlyreleased works in Russia, I think that the childrens stories,sometimes being all that the Russian people had to read that wasntcorrupted by the government, made a great contribution to thedevelopment of the Russian culture and also had a great impact onmany people.
The image of the trickster is also very prevalent indifferent cultures. In the African culture the trickster comes to theforefront in many different folk tales and fables. He is usually usedto teach a lesson or to show a moral. In most cases the trickster endsup getting the short end of the stick, but in the story Im going torelate to you, Sungura and the Leopard, the trickster comes out M. Harrington 4on top.
In the African jungle there lived a leopard. One dayit started to rain, and fearing that he may lose his spots, the leoparddecided to build a house. A short distance away, a rabbit (Sungura)had the same idea. Both chose the same spot to build a house. Theyboth then started to go and gather wood. Each was adding to thesame pile, but neither one knew that the other was also going tobuild there. They just thought that their ancestors had put the extrawood there. Leopard then went to get mud for the roof, and cameback to find the house already framed. He attributed this to hisancestors and went on to finish the house. The two slept in thehouse that night not knowing that they were together. In themorning they found each other and agreed to build a small walland share the house. After a while, Rabbit started a family. Thenoise got too annoying for Leopard, so he decided that he would killthem. Rabbit overheard and decided that it was time to play a trickon Leopard. He started having his kids cry for elephant meat.
Leopard overheard this and got scared. He figured if he can kill anelephant then he can kill me. So he left. He then saw a baboon,and was called foolish for believing the rabbit. Then he went back.
He then overheard Rabbit say I cant believe that leopard listenedto the baboon! What a fool! (Knuston 19). Rabbit then had hischildren cry for Leopard meat, and when Leopard heard Rabbit saythat he would go out and hunt some, he left for good. Rabbit nowhad the house all to himself. M. Harrington 5This is a tale that came out of the Ashanti tribe,and the point of it was to say that even if you are small, if you useyour brain then you can prevail. Ashanti artistic creations include a wealth of myths and tales… (Miller 2). Tales such as this one areseen throughout the African tribes, and the trickster is usually theone who prevails. The Ashanti, as well as the other tribal Africans,believed that it was more important to use ones mind and to be ableto think quick than to just rely on brute strength all of the time.
Using the image of the trickster also served as an educational tool. Itdisplayed to the young children that they can get out of a conflictwithout fighting. It also taught them that pride was bad, becauseLeopard only wanted the house so that he wouldnt lose his spots,and Rabbit, the winner, only wanted the house so he could raise afamily.
European culture also has its fair share of trickstertales in Aesops Fables. In these stories, which were said to have beenwritten by a Greek man named Aesop some time in the sixthcentury BC, there is always a moral for an ending. While AesopsFables is more of a collection of stories from different, unknownauthors, Aesop gets the credit for it.
The most commonly used trickster in thefables is the wolf. He is shown to be very sneaky and mean, but alsovery smart. In many of the tales he is successful as the trickster, andhis main objective is usually to eatsome sort ofdefenselessanimal.
M. Harrington 6One example of the wolf as a trickster is the story of theWolf and the Crane. In this story, the wolf has a bone stuck in histhroat and asks a crane to use its long neck to pull it out. The wolfoffers a reward, so the crane reluctantly accepts. After the bone isout the crane asks for her reward, and gets this reply, You can goabout boasting that you once put your head into a Wolfs mouthand didnt get it bitten off. What more do you want? (Santore 3). this showed the cunningness of the wolf whereas he got the servicethat he needed for nothing in return. One fable where the tricksterdidnt come out on top was in the fable entitled The donkey in theLions Skin. In this case the trickster was a donkey. He found a lionskin, dressed himself in it, and then went around scaring friends.
When he neighed in happiness at his triumph, the fox heard him,and exposed him for what he was. Here the fable taught the moralthat if one is to be a trickster, then make sure you are very carefulabout it.
Probably the most famous tricksters and childheroes ever to be introduced to the world were Tom Sawyer andHuck Finn. These two boys, created by Mark Twain, spent theirentire lives tricking people for different reasons and also becomingheroes by getting themselves into many interesting adventures. Inthe book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer the two boys end upcapturing a criminal and bringing him to justice before the wholetown.Another example of Tom Sawyers heroics was when he andagirl weretrapped in acave, and when shepassed out from M. Harrington 7 exhaustion he took it upon himself to get her water and keep heralive. In the end they were rescued from the cave and Tom wasgiven accolades as a hero.
The American culture is very receptive of the childhero. In recent movies such as Home Alone, the child is glorifiedand given the role of the hero. In America, where there is not verymuch that remains to be innocent, the image of the child hero isCategory: English