Jumanji and other thoughts

I was reading 'Jumanji' to my children last night, a story that I've never actually read before, but I have seen the movie. Anyway, I picked it up at the library, and as I was reading it, it struck me that this book was a thinly disguised metaphor for life. As you play the game, various disastors befall you (lions, monsoons, etc.) The only way to restore things to any kind of normalcy is to keep playing the game, and reach the 'golden city' at the end. It does not take a genius to spot the 'endure to the end' message, and equate the golden city with heaven, and the jungle with earth. I feel a FHE lesson coming on....... Of course, I don't think it's supposed to take a genius too see this. This is a children's book, after all. But I feel stupid that I did not notice this when I saw the movie many years ago. It made me wonder what other children's stories were metaphorical, that I simply took at face value when I was young. And so, because I am too lazy to do research, I ask that you, the bloggers of the world, simply tell me. What other children's books have you found that have a hidden meaning? Oh, and do you point it out to your kids, or let them simply enjoy the story, and let them notice it when they're older? (Clearly, the Chronicles of Narnia - this one I know, I'm not a complete idiot). But I also read 'Make Way for Ducklings' to my kids just after Jumanji, so I was thinking about this, and I thought "No hidden meaning here, this is just a story about ducks, and about being nice to others." Anyway...what do you think? Is 'Where the Wild Things Are' really about communism or something?


Blogger Heather O. said...

"Make Way for Ducklings" is just a showcase for Robert McClosky's artwork of Boston, although we love it because Jacob can point to the buildings behind the Longfellow Bridge and say,"I was born in Boston!"

It's a good question, though, and the answers about metaphorcial children's books could explain why some of them have been around in print since our parent's generation.

4/05/2005 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

My mom holds out that Cinderella (yes, the Disney version) is a metaphor for life. You are put upon, people treat you badly, and yet you bear all your burdens with a smile. And in the end you get your (eternal) reward. I happen to find Cinderella a bit cloying, but perhaps that's because I've seen it WAY too many times.

Off the top of my head, though, that's all I can think of. I tend not to point it out to my kids; I suppose that's something they need to figure out for themselves.

One more story: I was in a book group in DC with a bunch of older women, one of whom was a Unitarian. We were talking about Christian fiction, and someone mentioned Narnia. She (the Unitarian) looked sheepishly at us and said, in essence, that she hadn't caught the Christian Allegory in Narnia. She didn't pick up on it until her daughter pointed it out to her (with a "Jeez Mom. You are so dense")

4/05/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory about a dozen times when I was a kid and NEVER realized that it was moralizing. Which now leads me to wonder:

(1) are moral lessons in literature completely lost on kids so why bother?


(2) are moral lessons in literature completely subconsciously internalized and, if so, where can I find a kids' book with a hidden message about wiping off the pee after you use the potty?

4/05/2005 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Wiz, be fair to yourself ... the movie Jumanji was not that much like the book.

We have a book by Richard Egielski called "3 Magic Balls" in which the story strikes me as remarkably similar to the story of being a parent. You do it because it looks cool and you can resist. It turns out to be a lot of trouble, but also to have these amazing moments that you would not trade for anything.

Maybe it's just the part where all three balls are crying "WAAAH, WAAAH, WAAAH," that makes me think that!

4/05/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I did think of another one: The Polar Express. I'm not much of a VanAllsburg reader, though. I wonder if more of his books are like that.

4/05/2005 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Julie -
Your questions are exactly what I was thinking! That's why I was wondering if we were supposed to point the morals out to our kids or just let them somehow magically 'absorb' them subliminally.

Also, Clorox Wipes placed on top of the toilet works as a wonderful reminder. Sometimes.

4/05/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Wait a minute: are we talking about books with morals or books that are metaphors? Because there are tons of the former... most books have some sort of moral to them, either blatant or otherwise. Most children's books at Deseret book come to mind; they're usually quite explicit in what they want their readers to learn. Drives me nuts.

Books that are metaphors -- stories that can mean different things on different levels -- though, are more subtle and slightly harder to come by. And I think the reward is in the realization that there is more than one angle to the story. I don't know if it's something you should go pointing out, though. Half the fun is realizing it for yourself, isn't it?

4/06/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Yes, Melissa, you're right. I did post about metaphors, not morals, inititally. I'm not talking about Aesop's fables here, with the message clearly printed in the last paragraph of each one. I started using the two terms (morals and metaphors) interchangeably in the comments, and I shouldn't have done that. Sorry about that.

I had a lot of fun figuring out the Aslan thing when I was growing up. (Apparently 'The Voyage of Caspian' are Paul's travels? Is that right?) I don't want to take that away from my kids, but I do wonder how much they absorb. Do reading stories like this help them to understand life better in the long run, without them even realizing it? Are these stories better to read than "Strawberry Shortcake's Filly Friends?"

Also, did anyone else notice as a kid, or did it take until you were a teenager, like me, to realize that 'Jiminy Cricket' has the initials of J.C.? He's your conscience!

4/06/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Um, for some of us, it took until adulthood and reading that last comment to figure that one out.

FYI, the book you're thinking of is not called "Voyage of Caspian", but "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", with Prince Caspian at the helm. It could be Paul's travels, though. I just remember I found it one of the more boring Narnia tales. DH loves it though, so maybe I should re-read it. Sounds like we both need too :).

4/06/2005 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Morgan said...

Oh, the Chronicles of Narnia were some of my favorite books as a little girl (a long ago era from the dark ages of the 90's). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was my absolute favorite then, but now that I've actually become a Christian, I'm very very found of the last few chapters of the Last Battle. Kids definitely absorb the point, if not the specific morals, of the story. (i.e. Good should and DOES triumph over evil)

As for children's books that make a impact, I can assert that Roald Dahl's Matilda gave me my love of learning that I hold to this day. After reading that at age 8, I immediately went to the library and checked out tomelike classics and tried to read them. Oh well.

I always feel rude about randomly commenting on peoples' blogs. Hi, my name is Morgan, student, age 16. Y'all have a really cool blog here. =D

4/06/2005 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

YES these stories are better to read to your kids than Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie, Pooh and any other assortment of hack literature.

Good stories well told are always better. But then I'm a book snob.

And, I think whether we realize it or not, they do absorb what is going on in the books.

4/06/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I stand corrected (by Russell): A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh is NOT hack literature. All the crap Disney spin-offs from the movie ARE.

I think he might be the only one who cares about this, but I am compelled to make the clarifcation anyway. :)

4/06/2005 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

One great thing about reading these books to your kids is that the kids get to rediscover them as an adult.

I have wonderful memories of my mother and sisters crowded on my parent's kingsized bed and listening to the Narnia books, and the books by Francis Hodgsen Burnett(Secret Garden and Little Princess--did I get the author right?) I re-read the Little Princess and the Secret Garden when I was old enough to read, and then I re-read the Narnia books as an adult, and discovered how great they are as an adult. So yes, I agree with Melissa that good books are way better than any spin off Disney crap.

Jacob can't sit through a whole Narnia book yet, but he already knows who Aslan is, and he sleeps with a toy lion that he has named Aslan. I can't help but think that with such an early interest in good literature, it won't take much for him to want to sit through a whole story when he's able to. And he's already pretending about Aslan and Narnia, which has to be better than always pretending you're a Superhero shooting the bad guys.

Then again, he is a boy, so maybe he'll be reminiscing about Spiderman and Mr. Incredible long into his adult years. I know my 37 year old brother still does!

4/06/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Heather, how old is Jacob? We did Narnia aloud when our Sam was four. He didn't get everything, I know (hm, darn! We'll have to read them again later!) but he was spellbound. We read "chapter books" to lull our kids to sleep ... it's the only time they'll be still for long enough!

And in the comment about "3 Magic Balls," I meant you can't resist ... sorry about that.

4/11/2005 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Jacob is 3, and he'll sit through about 2 pages of Narnia until he starts looking for other pages with pictures. He does the same thing with chapter books, but seems to be getting better. We haven't tried Narnia for a while, so maybe we'll start again in a year or so. I did introduce Beverly Cleary's "The Mouse and the Motorcycle", and he is loving it. He doesn't sit through all of the actual words, but he will sit as I skim through the book and relate the basic story. He also carries the book around with him everywhere he goes. I hope that's a good sign!

4/11/2005 06:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All "children's" movie carry a message and a hidden message. If you look closely when watching "just movies" they ALL have subliminal messages. Some of them are more puzzling then others, but the messages are there...guaranteed. We need to open our hearts, and minds not just our eyes.

11/09/2010 12:21:00 PM  

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