Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Little Lame Prince and His Traveling Cloak

Dinah Mulock 1964

There are so many amazing older books written for children.  I suppose many people get turned off by the antique language or outdated social characters.  That's too bad because these vintage books often have tremendous moral lessons and beautiful writing.  This story was originally published in 1875.

Our copy has this wonderful inscription on the first page:

As a baby Prince Dolor was dropped on his christening day, resulting in him being lame for the rest of his life. He is sent to live out his days in a tall tower with an uncaring nurse. Luckily he has a magical fairy godmother who gives him a special cloak- a traveling cloak that lets him fly around even though he cannot walk.

Outside it was the commonest-looking bundle imaginable- shabby and small; and the instant Prince Dolor touched it, it grew smaller still, dwindling down till he could put it in his trousers' pocket, like a handkerchief rolled up into a ball.

He is curious about the world and as he wishes to see and experience things, his cloak makes it happen. His godmother also gives him a pair of magical glasses and ears to enhance his sight and hearing.
Just a bunch of green leaves- such as we see in myriads, watching them bud, grow, fall, and then kicking them along on the ground as if they were worth nothing. Yet, how wonderful they are- every one of them a little different. I don't suppose you could ever find two leaves exactly alike in form, color, and size- no more than you could find two faces alike, or two characters exactly the same. The plan of this world is infinite similarity and yet infinite variety.

It's really a remarkable story about how he grows up, faces his disability, gets his kingdom back and becomes a great king.

He had never seen any real live boys, but he had seen pictures of them, running and jumping, which he had admired and tried hard to imitate, but always failed. Now he began to understand why he failed and that he always should fail- that, in fact, he was not like other little boys, and it was of no use his wishing to do as they did and play as they played, even if he had had them to play with. His was a separate life, in which he must find out new work and new pleasures for himself.

His godmother tells him: "You will never be able to walk, or run, or jump, or play- that your life will be quite different from most people's lives; but it may be a very happy life for all that. Do not be afraid."

 The sense of the inevitable, as grown-up people call it- that we cannot have things as we want them to be, but as they are, and that we must learn to bear them and make the best of them- this lesson which everybody has to learn soon or late came, alas sadly soon to the poor boy.

 This line I thought was startlingly perceptive and wise (and a gem to find in a children's story):

Then he fancied the cloak began to rock gently to and fro, with a soothing kind of motion, as if he were in somebody's arms- somebody who did not speak, but loved him and comforted him without need of words; not by deceiving him with false encouragement or hope, but by making him see the plain, hard truth in all its hardness, and thus letting him quietly face it till it grew softened down and did not seem nearly so dreadful after all.

We have several copies of this book.  One from 1928 and with more classical illustrations.

And also a large hardback from 1948 that includes "The Adventures of a Brownie" also by Miss Mulock.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your blog, it is a delight. I just discovered it today, looking for Doris Burn illustrations. The Little Lame Prince was a favorite of mine as a child and I hadn't ever met anyone who even knew of it.
    I love children's books, and we and your children are very lucky you have been so constant in your postings here.