Sunday, February 5, 2012

Walking Tiptoed

Yesterday Cat at triggered a memory of a story I read as a small child, and that although I had forgotten it or where it came from, its name had floated up in my mind intermittently ever since.
"The Thing that Walked Tiptoe" came from a book called "The Dawn Shops": such a magical title. Could you buy "sunrise" in such a shop? Obviously it would have been full of mysterious and magical wares.
The story - you can google it - is of an elfin "thing" who yearns to be and play with real children.   It practises trying to walk on the ground - its kind walks above it - and eventually manages to walk on tiptoe.  Its family makes it a dress, and a hat to cover its long ears, and it confidently sets off.
Shockingly, a group of children jeer at and reject it, but it finds a lone child in a meadow, with whom it plays happily all day.  However, at the day's end, the child reveals that it has known all along that it is not another real child:  its ears poke through its hat and it walks on tiptoe.
Saddened that all the work and effort went for naught, the thing flees to home.  It doesn't see the positives of the child enjoying playing with it while also accepting its true nature.
A sad little story.  But what a parable.  Hiding or disguising your unique qualities in order to try to fit in.  Not an uncommon story.
Of course I didn't see that when I was a child.
But perhaps my subconscious did, and that's why the story lingered there while my memory deleted it.
Sometimes among my students I have young ones who are easily distracted.  Among these are some whose distraction consists of constantly watching other children.  I have sensed - and, I might be wrong - that they were appraising and trying to learn how these others were so easily being average children.   Is that lucid?
I used to work with individual children across quite a wide geographic area.  Thousands of children, in total. It seemed to me then that the eyes of most  5 year olds were completely open and trusting:  but, by six, an almost imperceptible shadow of wariness was there.  Losing their self -  acceptance?  Learning to stretch their toes to the ground and hide their long ears under a hat?  I wonder.

They eyes of some monkeys, like the one above, are unbearably sad.


Elephant's Child said...

Ouch. I am not surprised that story hid itself somewhere in your memory. Very true, but not entirely comfortable. And, as you say, not uncommon.
As neither a teacher nor a parent I will have to take your word for it, but the loss of complete openness by the age of six does strike me as a tragedy.
And the eyes of many monkeys and indeed the apes are all too frequently sad. Anthromorphism? Perhaps but it is a emotion commonly attributed to them.

Frances said...

The quite distinguished journalist Jan/ex James Morris, recounted in his book on changing sex that he found that as a woman he could say "silly" things, but men always had to say things that were rational/pragmatic/scientific. Thus, to my mind, "anthropomorphism": women could sense an emotion, but science had not shown this, so men had to ridicule the notion. An animal cannot say that it is sad, therefore it cannot be sad. What nonsense.
The good news is that more and more nowadays science is revealing the abilities, intelligence and yes, the feelings of other life forms.
But, of course, when the features of some animals, like this little macaque, resemble what I think of as sad, it doesn't mean that the animal is indeed sad: that's just its face.

persiflage said...

Frances, you are incredible. You keep writing about things which are lurking in my memory. I remember reading The Dawn Shops, but cannot remember any of the stories. In my vague memories they were somehow mysterious and magical - but maybe I am mistaken. I did a quick search and realise that the author also wrote the Milly Molly Mandy stories, which I remember somewhat better.
And where can I find the refrain "I don't like porridge. I won't eat porridge. Nasty stuff." ?

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catdownunder said...

I read this earlier and meant to comment. I know I have a copy of The Dawn Shops somewhere but it is probably packed in a box in the shed! It is a strange little story and I had forgotten it completely. I think all those stories are quite different from the M-M-M stories. I wonder what Brisley was thinking when she wrote it?

Frances said...

Persiflage: I keep butting up against things not only in my memory, but in everyday coincidences.
It has made me listen more carefully to myself.

Frances said...

Thank you for visiting, Suporna Roy. What country are you in?

Frances said...

Cat: Is this a personal division, where we mostly say: this is the way that we like it, a la MMM; and elsewhere we let our head go on possibilties and their dangers?

Relatively Retiring said...

A lovely, thought-provoking post, and now I must try to find the book.