Saturday, August 23, 2008

Whence Did That Come?

So the other night, as happens on so many nights, I came home from work, and my kids were bouncy and happy to see me. And so we gathered everyone together and sat down at the dinner table.

And, as so often happens, the Pillowfight Fairy decided she wanted to share a story with me. Now, as I've mentioned before, following her stories tends to be a little like following War and Peace when it's three in the morning, and you haven't had caffeine in a while, and you just aren't into depressing Russian literature.

So normally, the Fairy will tell a story, and it goes on and on and on... And I don't want to squash her delicate five-year-old spirit, so I'll punctuate the conversation with "Ok," and "mm-Hmm," and "And then what happened?" et cetera. I was gearing up for this, when she said something that grabbed my attention and squeezed it really, really hard:

"Ok, now I'm going to tell a funny story. It's called, The Pit and the Pendulum."


I decided then and there that I really, really wanted to hear this. But more than that, I wanted to know: How the heck did my five-year-old girl learn about classic American Horror literature?

Now, I don't remember exactly how the story went, so this is a couple-days old paraphrase:
Once upon a time there was an astronaut. Who was also a prince. And he lived in a pit. And he was captured by aliens, who took him into their pit where they strapped him down to a table. And there was a pendulum over the table that was swinging back and forth, lower and lower, over his tummy. And just before it got to his tummy, he escaped! And he flew away and went back to his own pit, where he was safe.
Well. Something is going on here. The classic Poe story does not involve astronauts or aliens, and the hero doesn't live in a pit; but other than that, it follows the outline of the original pretty well: the hero is strapped to a table; the pendulum swings lower and lower, and he gets out of it in the very end. So somehow, in one form or another, the Fairy has been introduced to the outline of the story.

When did this happen? I thought to myself. How in the world did she come up with this?

Well, after a little digging, the truth came out. Turns out, since we've banned her from reading Calvin and Hobbes until the end of the month, she decided to do the next best thing: she pulled out our copy of the Peanuts Treasury, which was published after the death of Charles M. Schulz in 2000, and contains all the strips published from 1959 through 1967.

And it just so happens that there is a sequence of strips in there in which Charlie Brown has been flying his kite, and has gotten so tied up in the Kite-Eating Tree that he's dangling upside down, several feet above the ground. And as he dangles there wondering what to do next, Lucy comes up with Linus. She's explaining to him the story of the Pit and the Pendulum, and as she's explaining the part about the pendulum, she absent-mindedly gives Charlie Brown a push, so that he's rocking back and forth, providing a visual aid.

That's where she got the idea of the Pit and the Pendulum. And she mixed it together with the bit about Astronauts and Aliens, which she got from Spaceman Spiff. Ok, now I understand.


Incidentally, now that we've banned Calvin and Hobbes, and now that she's reading more Peanuts, we've noticed a subtle change in her language. She's stopped referring to her siblings as "fuzz-brain" and "bucko" and "booger-breath".

She now refers to them as "blockhead".

She also tried to sell me information on UFOs for 10¢ the other day....


Roger Z said...

Your daughter is awesomely weird. I hope if we ever have a daughter my daughter is half as cool as yours! :)

Jeff said...

Ditto that, man. I 'spect my stepdaughter was much like yours at that age (I didn't meet her mom until she was nine).