Monday, March 10, 2008

The Moorchild

When I posted an entry about Delia Sherman's book Changeling, someone commented about the book Moorchild by Eloise McGraw. I now have that book. I have a few concerns about it.
Firstly, as in so many other books, the 'happy ending' consists of the parents getting their own child back. In Selma Lagerlof's story, the troll baby goes back to his mother. In Moorchild, Saaski/Moql ends up wandering with Tam, the orphan boy she befriends. Though both are treated with kindness by their human mothers, their mothers clearly would rather have a proper human child.
The only one who shows any sign of preferring the changeling to their own child is Yanno, who is sad that Lekka/Saaski (the stolen child) is terrified of bees, while Saaski/Moql helped him with his beekeeping. In Delia Sherman's book, instead, both Neef (the stolen child) and Changeling go back to their adoptive families in the end. That's the happy ending. Changeling clearly belongs with the humans, despite being a fairy in the form of a human, and Neef wouldn't want to go back there - it's not her home anymore. You never meet Changeling's parents, so you don't know what they want, but they've clearly been decent parents to Changeling, and she loves them.
Another problem, and this is present in both Changeling and Moorchild, is that the children fit in too well. They're only odd. In all the stories of changelings older than infant, if they described the child's abilities, they usually couldn't talk (except when tricked into revealing their true age) and some couldn't walk. They were all severely disabled, 'useless eaters'. But both Changeling and Saaski/Moql are strange rather than obviously disabled. Though Changeling clearly was considered disabled, she's in the category of children who have only recently been considered disabled, not those who were always viewed that way.
Saaski/Moql also should have been more disabled among the fairies, most likely. Apart from being unable to shapeshift or disappear, she seems to have normal abilities for a Folk child. She fits in among them even more than among the humans, until they reject her for what seems not to be much of a reason (after all, she could easily have been accomodated, especially since she was perfectly capable of making herself look the color of moss as she hugged a tree and could have hidden that way and gone out only at night when the risk of capture is less). She is more agile than most humans, but again, she's no less agile than most Folk.
A last comment about the stupid teacherly 'Alladin Reading Group Guide' questions at the end of the book. At one point, they state:

"The Moorchild is dedicated to 'all children who have ever felt different.' Is this another way of saying that the book is dedicated to all children? Do you think every child - or adult - has felt different at some point in their lives?"

I hate this kind of normalization of the experience of being different. Maybe many kids feel different on some occasion, but very few kids, like Saaski/Moql and myself, have felt different virtually every time they're with a group of children. It's totally different from occasional concerns about not fitting in. Instead, you know that you never fit in, you never belong, or at least so rarely it feels like never. It becomes a part of how you see yourself - not within any group but always an outsider. It's like the difference psychologists draw between state and trait. State anxiety means you are simply anxious at the time. Trait anxious means you're an anxious person. Though you may not always be anxious, you are anxious much of your time. Similarly, the feeling of not belonging can be a state or a trait, and it's very different when it's a trait than when it's merely a state.

PS: Here's my favorite write-up of the changeling myth.

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Blogger Rae-Lynne said...

I read the book. I have a VERY traumatic past and "not fitting in" is a reality. I've worked towards it now, acknowledge what I can and can't do and have a very happy life. No body really "fits in" no-one. You can point to anyone you want and say "oh look, they have fun with their peers" but life is not like movies. Sure, people get along, have fun, and connect, but anyone who thinks that most people go along in life with social connections is just fooling themselves. I council many of my friends and many freshman college students. Everyone has been bullied to some extent, everyone gets left out, and most students never really feel they fit in. Everyone is SO different now a days its pretty much impossible. This generation is not our parents generation...identical suburban houses with two parents is something of the 50's. Now there is too much abuse, divorce and disease in the world for anyone to really connect like they do in books.

10:12 PM  

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