[Article] Why the British tell better children's stories

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Sheepy-Pie

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[Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« on: February 20, 2017, 02:57:54 PM »
I found this article really interesting, and it makes sense to me. Take a look and see what you think :)

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/why-the-british-tell-better-childrens-stories/422859/?utm_source=aofb

I have never thought about the pagan influence before, and my WIP does feature the pagan ideas (very much the 'your presence in this world is fleeting', and creatures such as faeries and dragons. Both types of story can be very useful, but it might explain why I love fantasy so much, I used to live by a very pagan-esque area, it's very very known for it's faeries.

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briari hallow

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Re: [Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2017, 08:26:35 AM »
Oh hey, this is interesting for sure!

It's a nice side by side comparison of children's books.

I also find that fantasy in terms of the British variety tends to believe that children have a wider reading vocabulary/capacity. I honestly don't think I've read any of those American children's classics, having always much preferred magic incorporated somehow into the stories I read. It's not to say there aren't great American fantasy stories (I love DJ MacHale and I just looked up a bunch of my favorite authors and am blanking on other American authors that I love as dearly as my Irish/British authors, omg) but I tend to find stories that focus more on kinship than romantic love continues to appeal more to me. Don't get me wrong - I read Twilight, and the Hunger Games, (Didn't like Divergent) and whatnot, but those were fleeting fancies. Once the stories were over I didn't care about the characters anymore. But Growing up reading about Harry Potter and his friends at this far-away school - those were my friends, that was my school, those were my halls to wander with Harry.

I do find it strange the mention about how 9/11 affected American stories, particularly with the dystopian/post-apocalyptic surge it created. I only say strange because while I do see that that could have propelled those genres more into the main-light, I don't know if a lot of young readers are that heavily influenced by 9/11. I can't speak for every American child in the YA group when those books were released, but I was one of them and I don't know...I cry every time I watch a 9/11 documentary or movie, but I don't think I'm scared of those possible futures, because patriotism is a reality. I'm all "America is strong" which is why certain things going on politically upset me because I feel like America is supposed to be a sort of big-brother, and while it isn't infallible it certainly knows how to dust itself off and get back on track. 

Continuing off of that, the Narnia books are all set during WWII (two? One? Two, right?) and are heavily influenced by the events of that time. From the kids being shipped off to board with a stranger, and the idea of them needing to grow up quickly and take care of one another without adults around - Lewis purposely chose themes that reflected what children went through during those times, and years later, in another country, this is still one of the most resonate stories I've read since childhood.

I might be babbling. I've been at work since 6:30 AM (As in clocked in and dealing with patients since that time) so I'm a bit fried.

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No One of Consequence

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Re: [Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2017, 07:12:09 PM »
Odd that two of the 'pagan' British stories the article points to - the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Hobbit - were both written by devout Christians and are lauded by Christians as Christian metaphors.

I found it an interesting article, but I think the author is too taken with the idea that paganism is the 'better' source of literature - there appears to be a little confirmation bias going on. I have to agree with the idea that US folklore is often about human industry/effort transforming a blank wilderness, rather than the more negotiated and blurred boundaries of British mythology. For a nation famous for its racism and imperialism, the UK is really an eclectic culture.

One wonders how the advent of sub-continental migration to the UK in the 20th Century will impact UK mythology in centuries to come. Will the myth stories of two hundred years from now incorporate Hindu themes or myth figures?

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: [Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2017, 12:14:43 AM »
I don't know about the British, but I believe a large number of American kids get their fantasy fixes from movies, cartoons, video games, comic books, and other media that aren't traditional literature. So it could be that there's less of a market for fantasy literature here in the States than places that don't produce so much of that other media.
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ScribblerKat

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Re: [Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2017, 12:01:28 PM »
This explains to me why I like British fantasy. American fantasy is rooted in gritty reality and depressing morality.
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JayLee

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Re: [Article] Why the British tell better children's stories
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2017, 12:51:16 PM »
Hmmm... I don't quite know what I think about this article. A big part of me thinks it didn't look quite deep enough. I like that @No One of Consequence pointed out the inclusion of Narnia and The Hobbit. Especially since Narnia's 7th book definitely ends on that same moral level the article speaks of.... except ridiculously heavy handed. And Charolotte's web was brought up, which is a fantasy, with the "realistic" books.  And I don't think enough examples of books were brought up to begin with. For instance, it made no mention of realistic/moral classics in England. Where was Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" for instance? They're both big countries, with a lot of writers.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think there is definitely a certain ease with getting your hands on a young person's fantasy book in Europe (I'm going to extend this to Europe for a moment), and there is a rich fairy-tale culture. But the US has it's fair share too. More importantly, I grew up on folk tales from just about everywhere in the world. That's what holds my interest. I find American folk tales to be comparable to British, to Russian, to African, to Native American, to Siberian, to Chinese to etc. etc. etc. Once you read enough of them, they are what they are what they are.

And I think a little thought must be put into the demands of the market. The market keeps saying all these books are popular, and people keep buying them, so people keep writing them and people keep selling them. I admire that "true" fantasy never seems to go out of style across the waters. America doesn't seem to have had a really good spurt since the 80s. But fantasy is always there. Especially in all the mentioned fantasy titles, which I think are a little more exploratory/cross-genre in ways than the comparable English titles mentioned in the article. A good note in the article, I think, is that America sometimes feels like it has less to work off of, so things get all mooshed.

And one last comment about the sense of humor. I agree. British humor is way better. But if we're going to count Twain among the examples of overly-realistic-based children's classics, we must pause to mention "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court". As much as I adore Arthurian legend, like adore it, it was refreshing to see someone "drag it so far down". Laughed all through that book as a kid. It was a unique take. And I think it was equally as whimsical as something we'd find in Arthur's native land. 
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 12:53:49 PM by JayLee »
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