Friday, January 2, 2009

Human beings at different stages of maturity

There is a wonderful blog called The Inklings that calls attention to the work of the group of Christian writers that included C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and J.R.R. Tolkien. Today it posts a quotation from Tolkien answering a question about whether he wrote The Hobbit as a children's book:
That's all sob stuff. No, of course, I didn't. If you're a youngish man and you don't want to be made fun of, you say you're writing for children. At any rate, children are your immediate audience and you write or tell them stories, for which they are mildly grateful: long rambling stories at bedtime.

The Hobbit was written in what I should now regard as bad style, as if one were talking to children. There's nothing my children loathed more. They taught me a lesson. Anything that in any way marked out The Hobbit as for children instead of just for people, they disliked - instinctively. I did too, now that I think about it. All this "I won't tell you any more, you think about it" stuff. Oh no, they loathe it; it's awful.

Children aren't a class. They are merely human beings at different stages of maturity. All of them have a human intelligence which even at its lowest is a pretty wonderful thing, and the entire world in front of them. It remains to be seen if they rise above that.
What Tolkien says about writing for children also applies to talking to children. Nobody, young or old, enjoys being treated like a simpleton.

The Inklings: Of Hobbits and Children

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