“Don’t ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs.”
-Hamza Yusuf

Words are powerful.  And they are especially powerful in influencing and impacting young children, who have often not fully developed discerning critical thinking skills and are easily convinced that Santa is real, or eating carrots will make them see in the dark. Prevalent themes and topics in children’s literature are constantly changing – How these themes develop and change over time and how authors adapt to this transformation can be observed both in the progression of their individual works, as well as the progression of all literary works. The words about these themes and topics have the power to significantly influence people, not only about things trivial, or specific opinions, but also about beliefs, ideas, ways of thinking and how to be a human.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.”
-Pearl Strachan Hurd

Some consistently common topics and themes are those of obedience and questioning the traditional, looking beyond appearances, and envisioning and exploring the possibility of a better future.  While these overarching ideas have remained fairly stable in their appearance, associated opinions and perspectives regarding these portrayals are always in flux. With the power of words, the authors of children’s literature can spread awareness of current issues, encourage and develop new and modern viewpoints, and impact readers in a variety of ways.

“All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Historically, viewpoints on obedience and tradition have been more positive and encouraging of these values.  Today, strict obedience is more and more frequently depicted as undesirable, and the questioning and challenging of the traditional is depicted as more acceptable -thank goodness! We need a little healthy rebellion in our lives every now and then in order to fight for the creation and development of positive advances and an altogether better world. Literary characters question their reality by choosing alternative paths and practice critical thinking about the world around them, especially in regards to appearances. Frequently, characters that look beautiful, are, in fact, villains, and those with physical or emotional differences or defects prove to be heroes or redeemably praiseworthy. Even words can be misjudged based on their appearance. Interpretation is already subjective, and even when an author’s intent seems clear, language exists in such a way that they may actually be saying something entirely different!

“The pen is mightier than the sword”
– Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The protagonist of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series, Lyra, is often disobedient and rebellious, and grows to be suspicious of beautiful and/or powerful people, but these behavior patterns are not depicted as inherently negative, and are actually regularly rewarded.  Many of Ursula Le Guin’s characters rebel in similar way against traditional societal behaviors, those of their constructed literary world, as well as those of the world outside the books.  The dragons even reject gender at all! Fantastic! Let us all be more open-minded, like dragons! Through these consistent rebellions and questions, (now) standard fantasy characters develop unique identities and supply valuable contributions to develop and enrich their worlds. In this way, authors can influence readers to aspire to similar identity development and enriching contributions. Powerful. And hopeful.

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
– Rumi

It was initially a bit disheartening to read Ursula Le Guin’s intro of ‘Earthsea Revisited,’ just because it is sadly still so relevant that “women are seen in relation to heroes: as mother, wife, seducer, beloved, victim, or rescuable maiden” (1). She wrote this in 1999, and even today it is depressingly very applicable to the majority of ‘heroes’ in literature, film, and REAL LIFE!  It was really interesting to see how Le Guin herself was aware of society’s impact on her own writing choices in terms of female roles and limitations: “I simply lacked the courage to make my heroine doubly Other” (2).  Even when she included powerful female characters, they were not necessarily defined as typical heroes.  While Earthsea has a male-dominated society and emphasis, her series seems to develop over time in complexity and grow more organically inclusive.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
– Albus Dumbledore

Through the convincing and compelling enrichments of fantasy worlds, the outside world can be enriched simultaneously through new developments and insights.  The words used in the exploration of possible peaceful and harmonious futures can encourage peaceful and harmonious futures for modern society.  Even exploring dismal futures can inspire change, also encouraging a future of peace and harmony. Le Guin’s dominating theme of her first trilogy was “the quest for inner harmony and personal wholeness” (Marek Oziewicz, Rediscovering harmony: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence”), a thematic quest idea that is congruent with the search for a better future.  “Le Guin’s vision is neither Utopian nor dystopian, but rather what may be called ‘melioristic,’ meaning tending to betterment through human effort – or maybe through the opening of human hearts.” (Lenz, 2001, pp.77) Through the encouragement of the development of personal peace and harmony, in literary works as well as reflections upon those works, perhaps a future of real peace and harmony can be achieved.

That’d be hella sweet.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– John Keating

I dunno… he’s telling me with words…. should I believe him?

… wait… I’m using words… Am I influencing YOU? Do I mean what I am saying? What message am I even communicating!!?


What to Watch When You’re Depressed. (Or Just Sad):

Sometimes when you’re depressed, all you can do is sit there.  Moving is just. too. hard.  Well, while you’re sitting there, maybe watching something on the telly will distract you somewhat from your misery.  It’s worth a try, right?

Here are my recommendations:

Most importantly: Watch movies that you love or used to love.  Bring back that lovin’ feeling.

My personal happy/helpful movies:

  • Lord of the Rings “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

    • I really, strongly identify with these movies (and books). Ordinary, non-conventional heroes (THAT’S ME!) have to do all this impossible-seeming stuff, go on a long, difficult, draining, physically and psychologically exhausting journey to a dark and horrible place. But there is a support network. And all they come back in some way or another. It is possible!  If they can do it, maybe so can I? Maybe?
    • “There and back again” – I have a framed print that says this that hangs in my room reminding me that, like Frodo and Sam, I CAN make it to Mt. Doom. And then I can even make it back home. Things will be different, but the quest to vanquish the evil thing that has taken me over does have an end.  This is where I got the name for this blog.
    • “There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” ‘Nuff said.
    • BONUS: It’s really long, so if you feel like you can’t get up off the couch for a long period of time, that’s fine . . . you’re just having a movie marathon experience. Not moving turns into something you are doing on purpose to immerse yourself in the story, yeah, that’s it!
  • Into the Woods – “The prettier the flower, the farther from the path.”

    • Basically a giant metaphor for going through dark, scary, uncertain times and getting through it. “Everything you learn there will help when you return there.”
    • Also, freaking hilarious. How did Stephen Sondheim create such a roller coaster of emotions!?  I’m laughing out loud, then sobbing hysterically.  And it’s all relevant on so many different levels.
    • “Into the woods,
      It’s time to go,
      It may be all
      In vain, you/I know.
      Into the woods-
      But even so,
      I have to take the journey.
      Into the woods,
      Without delay,
      But careful not
      To lose the way.
      Into the woods,
      Who knows what may
      Be lurking on the journey?
      Into the woods
      To get the thing
      That makes it worth
      The journeying.”
    • Remember, NO ONE IS ALONE:
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – “They say that the best blaze burns brightest when circumstances are at their worst.”

    • What do you do when you’re suddenly different than you used to be? Are you trapped in a seemingly unsolvable or frustrating situation?  Do you feel like you’re weird and different and don’t fit in?  Need a change in environment and/or scenery? Do you feel out of sync with your identity and/or appearance?  Does your outside not match your inside?
  • Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility – any version – “Completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.”

    • Just take me away from this time and place where everything is horrible and bring me to the land of gentle pastels, sweeping gowns, long walks in the rain, and refined, yet sassy characters. Give me some sweet distance with a side of silliness, where the problems of the heroines are poignantly real and relatable even though they’re totally not relatable.
  • Silver Linings Playbook – “I like that. Just like all the other parts of myself.”

    • Hey, look – a movie about mental illness that isn’t dumb/condescending/a caricature. It’s real and many people struggle with it. It’s accurate, normalizing and relatable.

Whatever you watched as a child/young adult is often a good choice, because it can transport you back to a time when you were happier and not as worried.

  • Harry Potter – “Don’t let the muggles get you down.”

  • Mulan, Tangled, Anastasia, (and other Disney/animated features) – “A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.”

    • Again, brings you back to a simpler, happier place. Let’s get down to business… (you can finish the rest).
    • Be careful with your selections though. Maybe fast forward through that Lion King stampede scene?  And any time any characters parents die, really, which, let’s face it, is ALL THE FREAKING TIME (if they’re not dead already).

My happy/helpful T.V. shows:

  • BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it.”

    • Only have time for one episode? WATCH THE MUSICAL!  Season 6, episode 7: “Once More, With Feeling.”  “I touch the fire and it freezes me.  I look into it and it’s black. Why can’t I feel? My skin should crack and peel.  I want the fire back!”  Tell me that’s not about depression.
    • Only have time for one scene? THIS ONE:
      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmLSjwam26E
      • “Every single night, the same arrangement,
        I go out and fight the fight. 
        Still I always feel this strange estrangement, 
        Nothing here is real, nothing here is right.
        …Will I stay this way forever?
        Sleepwalk through my life’s endeavor?
        …I don’t want to be
        Going through the motions,
        Losing all my drive.
        I can’t even see,
        If this is really me,
        And I just wanna be alive.”
  • Better Off Ted – “I wish I had the power to make everyone go away.”

    • So delightfully and ridiculously funny – Thank you, Netflix!
  • Parks and Recreation – “Everything hurts and I’m dying.” “I’m fine. It’ just that life is pointless and nothing matters and I’m always tired.” “I don’t want to do things.  I want to NOT do things.” “Sometimes you gotta work a little, so you can ball a lot.” “Treat yo’ self.” “Never half-ass two things.  Whole-ass one thing.”  “My whole life is a giant mess and I love it.”

    • Every single episode is funny. It’s optimistic but realistic.  I feel like I relate to almost EVERY character. Perfect for extracting a laugh when you didn’t know you even had one left in there.  Short and sweet and easy to fit into your schedule.

*A note about sad movie-watching – I recommend mostly happy movies, but an occasional sad movie can be cleansing and helpful in its own way.  For example – if you feel guilt or shame about crying about your own problems, it can be a way to channel those tears so they can be expressed and not built up.  Try more gentle tear-jerkers like “Titanic” rather than THERE IS NO BRIGHT SPOT ANYWHERE movies like “Schindler’s List.”