17 July 2010


Locus Focus: Take Ten!

Let me begin by thanking everyone who made our first Themed Challenge so much fun. In case you haven't read their loci foci yet (LOL!), you can find the links at last week's page.

(Next Theme Challenge: Subterranean Settings! If you can think of a good one, schedule a post for 7 August 2010.)

I must say that I was especially delighted by Iolanthe's post on Jelaza Kazone of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe books and Paul Stilwell's spotlight on the most special part of Ithaca in Homer's Odyssey. Each of these family homes has a really great tree to boast of, as does one of my runner-up homes, considered for last week's Theme Day. There is just something about homes and trees together . . .

The Home under the Ground
Peter Pan
by J.M. Barrie

And how ardently they grew to love their home under the ground; especially Wendy. It consisted of one large room, as all houses should do, with a floor in which you could dig if you wanted to go fishing, and in this floor grew stout mushrooms of a charming colour, which were used as stools. A Never tree tried hard to grow in the centre of the room, but every morning they sawed the trunk through, level with the floor. By tea-time it was always about two feet high, and then they put a door on top of it,the whole thus becoming a table; as soon as they cleared away, they sawed off the trunk again, and thus there was more room to play.

Oh, that poor, frustrated Never tree! It's obviously a "grown up" tree, as its trunk is wide enough in diameter to be part of a dining table that seats almost ten children. But grown ups are not really allowed in Neverland (unless they are properly villainous like the pirates or obviously "exotic" like the Redskins); and so the tree must be cut down to size whenever it gets too big: a perfect parallel to the Lost Boys who share its living space.

And then there is Wendy, who fits into what is clearly a little boy's fantasy world with amazing ease. As Peter has explained to her, little girls are usually too smart to get lost by rolling out of their prams when their nurses aren't looking. Only boys do that and so only boys end up in Neverland, where they can fight pirates, hunt redskins, play with fairies, and dodge a giant crocodile, all to their hearts' content.

But now we have our first girl! And what she does on this fantasy island is keep her nose to the dinner pots, fill up her sewing basket with the darning, and insist that the smallest boy be her baby and sleep in a cradle. It's not necessarily an anti-climatic thing.

I am reminded of Robert Louis Stevenson's stepson making the special request that there be no girls in Treasure Island--and G.K. Chesterton's commenting on that with the observation that girls do tend to get in the way of adventures. With all due respect to RLS and GKC, who died long before the 1980s reared its gloriously mulleted head, I think no proof beyond The Goonies is needed to make the case for girls and adventures.

(But if you want to make your case with books, why not start with my Top 5 Brother-Sister Teams in YA? And in case you really care, I'm already planning a Top 5 Perfectly Platonic Pairings . . .)

Yet even J.M. Barrie was long gone by the time it was cooler to be a Goonie than a Lost Boy, and so Peter Pan is vulnerable to a host of feminist critiques. Which is awfully unfair. Wendy is so natural in her "typical" role and so perfectly happy playing house with real-life "babies" that I don't begrudge her or think she would have done more for the story by being a tomboy. Besides, she helps Barrie make an essential point about mothers and about homes.

We have no real basis for saying that Neverland would have been more exciting without Wendy: we never see it without her. Nor can we imagine the Home under the Ground without the little mother who hangs her washing up over the huge fireplace and insists on a fixed bedtime. And on the night Tiger Lily is almost drowned in the lagoon, the Lost Boys are nearly killed by the pirates, and Peter himself is at the point of musing darkly that to die would be a very great adventure indeed . . . "the biggest adventure of all was that they were several hours late for bed."

And would we begrudge them that?

Thus we end this Locus Focus about a home enhanced by a tree and an adventure enhanced by a girl, all wrapped up in the warm mystery of mothers and children that is the very heart of one of the best children's classics ever written.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: Quick links to this week's participants, in case the linky is down . . .

Pearls Cast before a McPig: Mercedes Lackey's Castle of Forest Reach (The Last Herald Mage Trilogy)

Birdie's Nest: Agatha Christie's St. Mary Mead (Assorted Novels and Short Stories)

Image Sources: a) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, b) The Goonies poster


Sullivan McPig said...

You really know how to make me want to read a book, don't you?
I myself will have to do my locus focus from memory as I packed the book I wanted to use in one of the boxes that went into storage..

Enbrethiliel said...


I love it, Sully! You may have only written it from memory, but it's obvious that you know a lot about Mercedes Lackey's fantasy worlds. And I know from previous reviews you've done that she must be one of your favourites--and you're making me interested in her books now, too! =) Thanks for linking up this week.

Birdie said...

Woot! What a great Locus Focus--there's automatically something wonderful about an underground cavern, isn't there? It's the sort of feeling that things can happen there that aren't possible anywhere else. And NOW I'm going to have to go re-watch the Goonies!

Enbrethiliel said...


Underground is great! =D And now I think I want to make "Subterranean Settings" a future theme challenge!

Belfry Bat said...

Oh, now I wish I had The Wind in the Willows handy! I rather like Badger's place...

Enbrethiliel said...


Unless I change "Nature Settings" to "Subterranean Settings" (which, now that I mention it, I'm itching to do), you won't have to worry about Badger's home until October. (And here I go again, presuming that you want it for Locus Focus rather than for your own pleasure. Pardon!)

If you can stand reading literature online, Project Gutenberg has Grahame's novel:


You know what? I will change next month's theme! Let me at those edit buttons . . .

Belfry Bat said...

You must see, from my point of view, it's quite the other way around; if you want to do "Subteranean settings" as opposed to "Nature settings", I'll feel I have to hold off on Mr. Badger's, as I'd already (or fairly-well) settled on a Nature setting to consider, but which isn't even remotely subteranean! I'd rather just do the un-family house this week, Mr. Badger's next, and then maybe take a holiday, and discuss a proper Nature setting when it comes around. If you go changing the rules and making them suddenly more specific (which *is* why I switched to the Burrow last week, afterall, b.t.w.) then I get all flumoxed and ... well... <inaudible sonar squeak />

Enbrethiliel said...


First of all, let me say I'm delighted that everyone who has chimed in so far has an image of an animal for an avatar!

Secondly, my dear flummoxed Bat, I'm very sorry about changing the theme on you. =( The main reason I felt free to change it all is that Locus Focus is not a very popular meme, so I didn't think I'd be inconveniencing anybody. (And as it is, I already feel I've been pressuring my friends to do this when they'd rather be doing something else . . . like going on more holidays. =P)