Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beware This Book

Bambina came home from the library the other day with a few books. One of which is called "The Mermaid's Cape" by Margaret K. Wetterer. It's a little out of her age range, but let me tell you, it should not be on any child's reading list at any age.

The story is of a lonely fisherman who meets a beautiful mermaid. She cannot live or breathe underwater without her cape, so he steals it and hides it and makes her come live with him and marry him. I was reading this before really digesting what I was saying and Bambina said, "That not very nice to keep her cape." Which is when I realized that this book was selling something I don't want my daughter to buy.

Listen to this: "Though his heart was moved with pity, for he was a kindly man, still the young fisherman would not give her the cape. He knew that while he had the cape he had power over the mermaid...after a time the mermaid saw that her tears and her pleadings were in vain. Sadly and slowly...she followed the young fisherman home."

WHAT?!!!! He's so "kindly" that he's kidnapping her while she cries?! It doesn't get better. "Finally after 7 years they had a son." I wonder why it took 7 years?! The book ends with her son finding the hidden cape, giving it to her, and her running far and fast and jumping back into the sea. And the townspeople telling him they knew no good would come from marrying a mermaid.

Fortunately the BabyDaddy came up with a good fake story that followed the pictures in the book, but unfortunately Bambina wants to read about the mermaid visiting the fisherman's friends and drinking juice and playing all the time now. It's painful to even crack the binding on this total abomination of a book. It's old, but only from 1981. It's not like we were all for teaching kids about kidnapping and coercive relationships with "kindly" men even then. I'm just stunned this even made it into print. I'm not the kind of mother who thinks that my little snowflake shouldn't hear about bad stuff. As you know she doesn't care that chickens and cows are killed for her lunch, she gets that there are mean people in the world, she knows that people die, etc. But to tell her a story like this with the message that a nice man can have power over you even if you don't want to be with him? It's just twisted.

So do yourself a favor and take about a minute at the library to make sure a cute book about mermaids isn't teaching your daughter to be a victim.

Rant complete. :)


Geoff said...

For a child reading it, I agree. Parental guidance is required. However, just such a story would be something interesting to pick apart in a High School English course or perhaps a University discussion.

"Kindly," is perhaps a misnomer. If, for example, the mermaid is treated as an entity that is less than human, we can imagine that he is kindly because he is kind to his fellow humans, whereas the mermaid could be seen as something akin to a pet. Mind me, people don't usually breed with their pets. And perhaps keeping the cape could be akin to the enforcement of rule and discipline (or some such excuse, make no mistake, I see no justification for such monstrosity).

I'm not going to start down the tangent of what rights mermaids should be entailed. Needless to say, the story raises concerns that frighten and thrill the adult imagination.

Still not a child's book though. Not even slightly.

Anonymous said...

Warning, too: avoid Madeline and the Bad Hat. I was deep into reading it aloud when I realized that I was on a page with a chicken guillotine and soon cat torture followed. Eeeek, sorry kid.

drousman said...

on a totally tangentially related comment....that baby daddy is good with the fake the butterfly rocketship.