Friday, May 04, 2007

A book for Boys based on GKC's Writings

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful:

G. K. Chesterton on Boys, May 1, 2007
Reviewer: Michael W. Perry (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews

What a marvelous idea for a book! It puts into action what G. K. Chesterton wrote in a 1906 magazine article:

A child's instinct is almost perfect in the matter of fighting; a child always stands for the good militarism as against the bad. The child's hero is always the man or boy who defends himself suddenly and splendidly against aggression. The child's hero is never the man or boy who attempts by his mere personal force to extend his mere personal influence. In all boys' books, in all boys' conversation, the hero is one person and the bully the other. That combination of the hero and bully in one, which people now call the Strong Man or the Superman, would be simply unintelligible to any schoolboy....

But really to talk of this small human creature, who never picks up an umbrella without trying to use it as a sword, who will hardly read a book in which there is no fighting, who out of the Bible itself generally remembers the "bluggy" [bloody] parts, who never walks down the garden without imagining himself to be stuck all over with swords and daggers--to take this human creature and talk about the wickedness of teaching him to be military, seems rather a wild piece of humour. He has already not only the tradition of fighting, but a far manlier and more genial tradition of fighting than our own. No; I am not in favour of the child being taught militarism. I am in favour of the child teaching it.

And for those rainy days with mommy makes the young warrior stay indoors, get him wonderful, imaginative books such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn, and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, along with tales of exploration like those of Ernest Shackleton and the two brave young men in Across Asia on a Bicycle

--Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien


  1. This books has sold over 1 million copies in the UK! It's just now being brought to the US.

    Something good here...

  2. Wow, 1e6 copies - I may have to look into this once it gets to used-book status.

    Incidentally, that quote is from a newspaper - as one might have guessed, from the famous Illustrated London News. It was GKC's column for Oct 20 1906, and can be found in CW27:306-310.

    It is WELL WORTH reading, as is usually the case with anything GKC wrote. Here's just a little more, as comment-defying as usual:

    The romantic child, therefore, must expect to be discouraged by the man who disapproves of all coercion. I only hope that the romantic child will not be coerced by the man who disapproves of all coercion. That man must be left on one side. He may be an absolute saint. He must be (as many saints were) an anarchist. But for somewhat saner people who may have some lingering doubts on this matter I think one point should in conclusion be made clear. It is a misunderstanding of the whole nature of boyhood and youth to suppose, merely because a boy or man has a certain weapon, or certain dexterity with that weapon, that he will always be using it to the annoyance or the destruction of his neighbours. There is nothing that boyhood or the romantic spirit enjoys so much as preparing for an entirely remote contingency. Scores of young men buy revolvers; they never shoot anybody. Scores of young men carry sword-sticks; they do not run anybody through. When I was a boy, I used to carry chocolate in my pocket; not because I liked it (I didn't), but because I was told that it was a concentrated and sustaining food, and I had always before my mind the extreme probability of being lost in an open boat, lowered down a dry well, snowed up in a hut, or imprisoned in a cellar. I never have been; but I still carry the chocolate, full of an infinite and hungry hope. Indeed, my favourite hero in fiction is the White Knight in "Alice in Wonderland," who carried a mouse-trap on his horse, for fear a mouse should ever get on to it. And I admit a modern nation with a Navy is very like the White Knight.
    Science has recently been hard at work sending up balloons. I think that philosophy (that higher thing) will continue to be content with flying kites. The two things constitute a good example of the more or less illogical way in which all such things are divided by the common phraseology and criticism of men. In one sense kite-flying is quite as scientific as ballooning; in one sense ballooning is quite as childish as flying kites.


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