Primary Boy #2

It’s a story that has been told many time before.  Page 1 is a peasant boy living an ordinary life; he and his friend are away from supervision hewing wood and drawing water and being comically boyish.  Imagine that this book is copiously illustrated, so on the facing page there is a warm, funny line drawing of two boys hanging upside down from branches trying to wrestle.

Page 2, they come back to their village to see it in ruins.  There had been a sudden raid by evil creatures out of legend destroying and burning.  Horribly, they also kidnapped.  The drawing is a view from behind the boy as he stands looking at the shattered hamlet.  The drawing is smudgy and chaotic.

Page 3, he discovers his parents are dead and his younger sister was kidnapped.  Here we have a picture of a young girl with her head turned to look back to us–she is distressed and sad–while a dark and inhuman arm pulls her into a brooding forest.  This drawing is detailed.

Page 4, he runs off into the local woods to boyishly grieve.  The drawing is him alone, dejected, and crying.

Page 5, he makes a vow by a spring to get his sister back and a supernatural experience ensues.  Some holy presence in the spring witnesses his vow and rises up to bless him and prophesy of his destiny.  The drawing is the boy in awe at the angelic being rising above him.

Page 6, he heads back to the village, but it is now night.  He hears noises and grapples with his own terror.  This scene is played comically.  The threat is no threat at all.  The drawing is a little boy with a stick clutched in his hand, marching truculently and grimly towards a skunk.

Page 7 onward, he is back helping the village.  We meet other friends and neighbors and we learn some of the lore of who the evil raiders may have been, what it portends, and our first hints about the meaning of the boy’s prophecy at the spring.  The drawings are scenes of ordinary life; they are calm and hopeful.

Page 38 onward, the boy’s first quest, something minor to help the hamlet.  Perhaps he and a companion or two (including his friend from page 1) are sent to plead with a Lord  for help for the hamlet.  There is the comedy of him and his bumbling companions being fish out of water, the touching simplicity of an overmatched lad still determined to do his mission–and succeeding!–and the warm personal relationships between him and his companions.  One of the pictures  shows the reception scene at the Lord’s hall.  The Lord and his court are shown very straight and graceful like a pre-Raphaelite painting while the boy and his companions are drawn more in a Norman Rockwell or Peter-Breughel peasant key.

Page 54 onward, on their way back they have an encounter with danger.  It is small but real, and requires them to fight.  Afterwards they have a second encounter with the supernatural beings of Light.  The boy receives more direction and his companions are recruited to help him.  They discover there is a rising Dark Lord who cannot be defeated by ordinary means.  A final drawing in this segment is the three of them kneeling humbly.

Page 75 onward, he decides he has to leave to discover a source of power that will help him fight the Dark.  He and his companions leave for good this time.  The drawing of the village farewell is touching.

They have major and minor adventurers.  He acquires an animal companion, a very comic older friend, probably not exactly human, he grows in skill and power.  There are long segments where he is being closely hunted by the Dark and must flee and lurk and hide.  He wins fights.  He meets with the King.  There is an unexpected treachery.  There is also a peril that he only escapes through the brave sacrifice of a friend and he weeps.  He discovers that his own nature can betray him, that he himself has bad flaws that holds him back, and he has to face his own fears and weaknesses.  He discovers more about the Light, what it is, and why it relies on him and others like him. The peril grows and becomes suffocatingly menacing.  The hero’s plan fails and he is badly defeated and wounded.

All copiously illustrated.

But when all seems lost, some weak and helpless friend gives him unexpected aid and the prophecy is fulfilled in a surprising way.  The boy’s own weaknesses and unsophistication turn out to be his greatest strengths, and the ruthlessness and malice that gave the Dark Lord his power turn out to be the Dark Lord’s downfall.  In a dramatic confrontation, the boy and the Light defeats the Dark.

The Light chooses and honors him in front of all the people.  The drawing shows the boy now become a young man, full of strength and nobility.

But what comes after that?

He could discover a new threat, and battle the Darker, and the Darker Lord.  And then the Darkest, and the Darkest Lord.  And so on.  This could be done well at first, but after enough repetitions it makes everything that has come before boring and meaningless.

Or he could go into some kind of stasis.  Happily ever after.  Or Frodo to Erresea, Samwise back to the opacity of daily life in the Shire.

But this hero is different.  Because on the very last page, the Light gives him a gift.

He and his friends came to life.

The book remained.  Everything they had done on its pages was still done.  They could return and reread it at any time, and experience it all over again, all the terrors and triumph and growth.  But now they were young again with a full life to live, with all choices yet to be made.  What they were in the book would never change, but now they could choose again what to be in this fuller life.  They were flesh and blood now, not pen and ink.

They could experience every second.  In their book life, they moved from one significant event to another.  What we think of as the drudgery and meaningless time between significant events he and his friends received as an amazing gift and a fuller, richer life.

Sooner or later he and his friends will come to the end of their story in this life.

But what comes after that?

They could just do it all over again.  Or they could go to some kind of happily-ever-after eternal stasis.

But the Light will give them, and all of us, a gift.

We will become alive.

We will still be able to see and experience our three-dimensional time embedded mortal life.  None of its tragedies and triumphs will change.  They will always be there for us.

But we will finally be real, with everything in front of us.  We will be able to do things unimaginable.  We will realize that our seconds are as full of gaps as a story is.  We will experience the time inbetween.

We will find ourselves in the fullness of reality, which is to us as we are to a book.


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