I have been in a bit of a reading rut lately. So many books I want to read theoretically, but I have been not finishing much while starting a lot.
I stumbled across The Black Cauldron because there was an update to the Kindle edition, which pushed it to the front of my kindle. Last weekend I read through it in two sittings. These children’s books seem so much simpler reading them as an adult compared to my memory of them as a child. They are not simplistic, but the plots are much less detailed than some modern children’s books like Harry Potter and certainly less than many adult fantasy books.
What I like most about Lloyd Alexander as an adult and I think what drew me in as a kid was how seriously he takes Taran and Eiloiwy. They are not just some kids, but they are unique individuals, and while they are flawed people, they can grow and change, be self-reflective, and do important things. Unlike some kids books that have the kids do big things because the adults are incapable, Alexander has kids and teens do extraordinary things because there are important things to be done. This isn’t a rejection of adults, but part of the maturing process of becoming an adult.
I am about halfway through a book on discernment by Thomas Green (Weeds Among Wheat) that I am reading for my Spiritual Direction class. Green suggests that often when thinking about discernment, we believe God is either the puppet master, who controls all the things, so discernment doesn’t matter. Or we think about God in deistic ways with God not being involved in the world at all. Green thinks a better social imaginary is God as the parent of adult children. There are times that a parent of an adult will intervene and get involved, but there are times when the parent of adult children will allow their children to make their own decisions and live with the consequences as part of the process of growing up.
The Black Cauldron is filled with these types of discernment lessons, where Taran or other characters are choosing between several options, and theoretically, many of them could be acceptable. The story plays out as the story does, but Taran does not know the end of the story from his position in the middle of it. One of the reasons that I am looking forward to reading these with my children when they get older is that seeing others make decisions (both good and bad) can help kids learn about the importance of their discernment.
I realized last night as my kids were watching Tangled that my six-year-old had not understood that Ryder did not leave Rapunzel voluntarily. She did not know that the Mother Gothel character was setting up Rapunzel and gaslighting her into disbelieving that Ryder loved her. We talked through what was going on, and despite the many times that we have watched the movie, and my adult understanding of the interpersonal dynamics, it was above her head. Similarly, books can introduce children to interpersonal dynamics and concepts that they would not understand except through experience. And I do not want my daughter to be forced to experience gaslighting and false narratives experientially before she is introduced to the concepts theoretically.
Because I have Disney+ and I have never watched the Disney Black Cauldron movie, I put it on in the background while I was doing paperwork when the kids were at school. It merges parts of the Book of Three and The Black Cauldron while significantly altering other aspects of the story. I understand why it did not do well in the box office. It did not work well as a cohesive story arc. And it was not a very faithful translation of the book to the screen.
So I don’t recommend the movie, and I don’t recommend the audiobook. But I can now advocate the kindle edition. There are complaints about the formatting on Amazon, but any formatting problems that existed in prior versions of the Kindle edition have now been fixed.