This month the theme of gluttony has been quite tricky as I have already stated in my Film blog. For the book blog this month I tried to stick more closely to the theme and have come up with some examples from children’s literature as they tend to have the most clear cut cautionary tales against eating too much.The first two examples I am going to refer to are quite timely as one of them is celebrating their 150 years of publication and that title is ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (First Stories) has so many themes that have been analysed and reinterpreted and re-expressed throughout popular culture. Right at the beginning of the story Alice learns her fate can be decided on what she eats or drinks when she discovers the ‘Eat Me’ ‘Drink Me’ labels in the rabbit hole which change her size either shrinking her or making her grow. In Wonderland she also takes part in a Mad Hatters Tea Party with the March hare, the aforesaid Hatter and a sleepy Dormouse. The Hatter tells Alice that they have to have tea all day because Time has punished them by standing still at 6pm (tea time). This constant tea time seems to have driven these characters mad or were they already so? Whatever the reason, it certainly seems to suggest that a constant continuation of eating and drinking is not good for anyone.
Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass (First Stories)is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In this story the tale of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ as told by the peculiar twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee most represents the sin of gluttony. In this story we see the Walrus and the Carpenter’s deceiving behaviour as they manage to befriend and trick the oysters into following them whereby they devour the lot of them. Alice does not think very highly of this, indeed she thinks that they are dreadful for doing so, thereby bringing a judgement on their actions that can influence young children as they will naturally look up to Alice being the heroine of the story.
Hansel and Gretel
Another classic tale from children’s literature Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm concerns itself with the dangers of being gluttonous. It also paints the behaviour of the adults particularly the mother figure in a bad light as in Hansel and Gretel, the mother or stepmother thinks there is not enough food to feed the children so gets her husband to banish the children to the forest where they are lured to the cottage of a witch that dwells in a house made of gingerbread and sweets. By eating pieces of the house they are then captured and she traps Hansel into a cage to fatten him up to eat. To see if they manage to escape read the book! This story does seem to contain a lot of different meanings and some of them certainly relate into the controlling of appetites, e.g. even though the children were hungry maybe should they have waited and thought before they started to eat from the house as this ended up putting their lives at risk? It seems to emphasise caution before acting.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The final example I am going to use is also from Children’s Literature, this time a Twentieth Century classic. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The titular character of Charlie is seen to be the most virtuous character that the other children are compared to and found wanting. Charlie Bucket is a considerate, selfless, honest and brave child who lives with his parents and grandparents. He wins a golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and is the only child you really warm to during the whole book. The Tale of Augustus Gloop is the tale in this story that warns against the perils of gluttony. Augustus Gloop, a large child who devours lots of chocolate bars, is the first child to win a golden ticket to tour the factory. His mother seems to encourage his eating habits, but these will prove to be his downfall. During the tour of the factory, he cannot resist drinking from the chocolate river and falls in only to enter the Fudge room through a pipe into the mixing machine where his parents go to retrieve him. He then has to leave the factory after losing most of his weight and covered in chocolate.
All in all there seem to be several cautionary tales throughout children’s literature, (both classic and modern) that try to serve as cautionary tales against being gluttonous. Can you think of any more? Get in touch at Facebook, Twitter, leave a comment or email us.