This issue of The Lion and the Unicorn features studies revolving around the ethics of childhood and imagination, particularly in children's fantasy.
Acclaimed author Aidan Chambers opens the discussion in his search for a poetics for youth literature. "[A]ll stories are moral systems," Chambers reminds us, as he begins his exploration by way of two novels that "spoke for a generation and authorized a set of fashions of thought and behavior," Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse (1954). By way of Wolfgang Iser, Paul Ricoeur, Milan Kundera, and his own experience as an author, Chambers shows how these two representative novels "narrate the two poles of adolescent need": "The need to free oneself from parental and childhood ties that get in the way of becoming what you imagine you want to be." A "poetics of the form," Chambers provisionally concludes, must address these "ethical, moral, and spiritual recognitions, and their profound aporias."
Susan Ang's "Dogmata, Catastrophe, and the Renaissance of Fantasy in Diana Wynne Jones" considers the themes of renewal and revolution in Jones's body of work, from her very early fantasy The Power of Three (1976) to recent novels such as The Game (2007). Noting Jones's thematic concern with multiple worlds, stories, and possibilities and her persistent use of folk, mythological, and literary intertextuality, Ang shows how Jones's form recapitulates the stories' content. by breaking up linearity, telling the same story with variations, and generally subverting readers' expectations of fantasy as a genre. As a result, like T. S. Eliot, Jones's "individual talent" takes tradition and subjects it to her vision. Her books revolt against cliché by blowing up, melting, and reconfiguring ancient tropes and plots to restore their interest and pertinence as living stories rather than dead monuments.
Continuing the themes of life and death, theme and variations, Alison Waller's "Revisiting Childhood Landscapes: Revenants of Druid's Grove and Narnia" discusses the tropes of memory and its relation to time and place. Taking Nina Bawden's Carrie's War and C. S. Lewis's Prince Caspian as [End Page v] examples, Waller considers the social—and individual—construction of identity through the environment. Waller argues that the protagonists' return to significant places of their past provoke an uncanny reaction that transforms them into ghosts—revenants—of a kind. In the work of both Bawden and Lewis, the return to childhood places provokes uneasy reflection about identity that "resist[s] traditional tropes of the safe, welcoming return to childhood landscapes." Both consider the physical return as a "bridge" to the past self that provokes reflection, though Bawden's conclusions are more ambivalent than are Lewis's. The differences highlight each author's notions of time—linear and irrevocable in Bawden's work or mythic and available to rejuvenation in Lewis's. For both, however, the future necessarily partakes of and is enriched by awareness of the past.
Claudia Mills, in her essay, "Good in the Way Witches Enjoy Being Good," gives us a fresh perspective on Eleanor Estes's undeservedly neglected novel, The Witch Family, in which two small girls, Amy and Clarissa, create an imaginary world populated by Old Witch and, eventually, by two companion witches (forming the witch family). At the outset, Old Witch is punished by Amy for her wickedness, and it is Old Witch's subsequent redemption (in Amy's imaginative world) that concerns the novel. Mills argues that The Witch Family deals with the concept of moral growth, which she finds to be a recurrent theme in Estes's work. Focusing on the protagonist, Amy, Mills describes her developing empathy over the course of her play and her varying responses to the predicaments in which she places her invented character, Old Witch. And Mills, who is trained in philosophy, takes us beyond that to a larger consideration and a deeper moral issue—specifically, whether morality is a human construct, "a complex creation of the human imagination," or whether moral norms do, in fact, possess an independent reality. Her essay finally brings us full circle back to the idea of...