Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Different Language

I was a reader before I was a writer.

When I was little, I loved to be read to. My grandmother got me a beautiful edition of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, perhaps because it was Kipling and because it was beautiful, but she didn't think that at that age (4? 5?) I'd have the fortitude to sit through an entire story before bedtime.

She was incorrect.

Kipling's stories were unlike any others that I had heard. The narrator addresses his remarks directly to the audience without talking down to them. The narrator is funny and uses difficult words and complains about not being able to color in the illustrations on the next page (which was funny for me, as my copy also had glossy pages interspersed, with another author's color illustrations).

One of the first books I read on my own (after sounding out my first sentences in "The Timbertoes" page of Highlights magazine) was D'Aulaire's book of Greek Mythology. There were illustrations throughout the book, and the stories, though not familiar, had themes that I could understand. I had basic Bible knowledge by this point as well, being Catholic and all. Maybe my Bible knowledge is why Mythology wasn't so strange to me; I in fact craved it after reading that first Greek book, though it was years before I made it to Norse mythology. I also read Aesop's Fables in 3rd grade, though I had the difficult habit of reading a book under my desk when I should have been listening to the teacher, and so it got taken away from me for several months before I was allowed to have it back (a school copy, not my own).

Reflecting on this now, Just So Stories was rather mythological in nature as well. Every story (unless I'm forgetting a significant detail) has to do with why something is the way it is, from the Elephant Child's stretched trunk to the Leopard's spots. This language of creation is what drove me to write, I think. Not so much for the "where did it come from?" aspect of storytelling, but rather to pursue the other fork in the road, "What happens next?"

We all make our own mythologies. Whether we share them is what makes the difference.


  1. Hey Jennifer,

    I just wanted to mention that I nominated you for a Versatile Bloggers Award. Thanks for all your great writing. http://surlymuse.com/its-versatile-its-a-blogger-its-a-versatile-blogger-award/ Cheers, Dan

  2. Awesome, Dan, thanks so much!My very first blog award ;)

    (though holy smokes, share fifteen other blogs....I need to get cracking)