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By David J.S. King
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Rated "PG" by the Author.
In approximately 15,000 words (12 chapters, this short story for seven to 12-year-olds and especially their adult readers reveals my connection through my children to the animal world. From the beginning, it is clear that this is more than a dream -- it is in fact something I feel a little as a threat. And the children themselves only see the animals in their natural habitat gradually. But they learn eventually that they just are animals, and, although the world is in crisis, the answer lies in their ability to coexist with the animals, something their elders have been too arrogant to even try. If only we adults can give them the space, it is up to the children of all species now.
Synopsis, Animal World
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The narrator is the father of Brendan, 7, and Lavinia, 10. He has realized that his children have been going to animal world at night and is in part fascinated by the beauty they had seen and in part frightened by some feeling that their contact with the wild could be somehow a threat.
The children are happy to tell their father what they have seen -- although somehow it is clear that as a grown-up he cannot come with them -- at least yet. They recount in vivid detail how they first learned to understand the wild -- on land and in the sea -- and then to see the animals. They see the beauty and also the cruelty of survival of the fittest.
The children learn the hard way that animals do not look to appreciate in the wild and almost become dinner for a jaguar. They are saved by a lioness who has learned to care about children because her own offspring is lame and would never be allowed to survive under the rule of survival of the fitness.
There has to be an answer! The children can see that grown-ups -- if sorry for the lioness's child -- can only agree that it must die. But they can't help but feel if the animals could only communicate, they would find an answer, at least the children would.
But animals cannot communicate like humans. I can see that their well-intentioned attempt to bring them together in a meeting cannot work. The human representative sees a business opportunity to form a zoo with himself as dictator and only loses out at the last minute to the lions who in the end appoint themselves King.
This is not the animal world as my children or the lioness conceive it. If they want to overcome the prejudices of grown-ups, they need the support of a sympathetic grown-up. That is why the lioness had been watching me and the reason for the foreboding I had felt all this time.
It is not easy to convince me. I know there are many reasons for the survival of the fittest and its laws have resulted in an animal world that is in many ways beautiful. But humans learned to leave it. Words are not our only or even most basic means of communication. The lioness -- like me -- is skeptical, but we feel a need to follow our children.
They do win the right to try. And it is a big risk for everyone! Power is given to the children -- the children not only of humans but of all species. It is hard to imagine what compromises they will find for us all as we depend so much on eating each other for survival. We adults sit in the Senate watching anxiously as the children learn to communicate, ready if need be to interpose vetoes to return to the way things had failed in the past.
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