- Real-World Referents of Fantasy
This issue of The Lion and the Unicorn features a mix of approaches and genres. The thread that connects them is an interest in the real-world referents of fantasy: challenges to the theological roots of high fantasy, or an allegorical approach to Spain's politics, the ethics of food production and consumption in Ella Enchanted, the situation of the child-subject in a postmodern city.
By now, nearly everyone knows Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, and this makes Sarah Winters's essay on Collins's first series, The Underland Chronicles, especially timely. "Religious Faith and Secular Hope in The Underland Chronicles" examines many of the same dark themes that haunt Collin's The Hunger Games. Winters describes The Underland Chronicles as "an ambitious attempt at an atheist high fantasy," comparing it to Pullman's his Dark Materials trilogy. Winters, however, notes the distinctions between Collins and Pullman, and is particularly interested in whether Collins, by rejecting both religion and the supernatural, can provide a new worldview that makes sense. It is thought-provoking reading.
James Mandrell introduces us to a writer who may be unfamiliar to many English-speaking readers, the Spanish author Laura Gallego García, a popular and award-winning author from Valencia. Mandrell discusses the allegorical elements in her Alas de fuego [Wings of Fire], with particular attention to how the political and social developments in modern Spain influence this fantasy story of the conflict between an angel and a wicked queen. As a student of medieval literature, Gallego García is quite at home with allegory. Mandrell provides his readers with a clear and succinct discussion of the milieu in which Gallego García writes, making this an accessible and informative introduction to modern children's and young adult literature in Spain.
Elizabeth Reimer approaches the Newbery Honor book Ella Enchanted through the perspective of the global and personal politics of food. After demonstrating how Gail Carson Levine's Cinderella story affirms a praise-worthy [End Page v] anticonsumerist ethic of sustainability, Reimer puts the book in yet another food-related light by showing how it also affirms a less praise-worthy set of assumptions about femininity, food, and popularity. Traditional, sustainable food production is lauded by influential and admirable figures such as Ella's fairy godmother Mandy. Ella's food preferences—vegetables and fish—mark her as a healthy and self-controlled eater while her stepsisters' insatiable desire for rich confections is critiqued and ridiculed. However, this ridicule confirms a conventional and long-standing practice in children's fiction of shaming children—especially girls—for transgressive desire, especially the desire for food. Ella turns out, like her precursor Sara Crewe, to have a streak of "mean girl" in her.
Kerry Mallan's essay on contemporary Australian picture books expands Baudelaire's theory of the flâneur, which privileges the uninvolved spectator, to include characters exploring the city as tourists and shoppers. She analyzes the multiple ways urban experience is presented to children as something to be consumed and purchased. Through these depictions of strolling through a city and experiencing its spaces, Mallan notes the ways the original flâneur's detachment has been transformed into an unthinking acceptance of the norms of tourism and consumption, thus reflecting the postmodernizing effects of globalization. Yet some picture books, such as Empty City by Brisbane author David Megarrity, use those moments to unsettle and estrange the reader's experience of the quintessential expression of globalization: the shopping mall.
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