So you can read my books

Monday, August 19, 2013


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On this day in 1907 Kenneth Grahame wrote the first of a series of letters to his son, Alastair,

describing the Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger adventures that eventually became
The Wind in the Willows.

Grahame had been inventing such bedtime stories for several years and the letter, occasioned by his being separated from Alastair on his seventh birthday, picks up what seems to be a continuing tale:
"Have you heard about the Toad? He was never taken prisoner by brigands at all. It was all a horrid low trick of his."

Alastair was an only child, born blind in one eye and with a squint in the other.

He was plagued by health problems throughout his short life. Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track

while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday on 7 May 1920.

Out of respect for Kenneth Grahame, Alastair's demise was recorded as an accidental death.

What does this have to do with my bear?

Mother once told me that the folly of most two-leggeds was that they wanted "happy endings"

when the best one could hope for was the appreciating of the happy moments in between the dawning of the light and the dying of it.

"Can't we have both, Mama?"
I remember asking, coughing from double pneumonia.

She ruffled my hair and smiled sadly,
"Perhaps you will be the exception, Little One.
I will pray so."

Perhaps Alastair's suicide was brought on by his handicap and his maladjustment to an adult world that seemed, to him as to Rat, more than adventure:

"And beyond the Wild Wood again?" [Mole] asked:

"Where it's all blue and dim, and one sees what may be hills or perhaps they mayn't, and something like the smoke of towns, or is it only cloud-drift?"

"Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,'" said the Rat.

"And that's something that doesn't matter, either to you or me. I've never been there, and I'm never going, nor you either, if you've got any sense at all."

Grahame himself is described as one who pined for but never took the Open Road,

as an escape from his banking career and a loveless marriage.

When he offered THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS to his publisher he described it as a book

"of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems,

clear of the clash of sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things 'that glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck."

My own THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS grew from my own childhood tales told to me by Mother
as she hugged me as I shivered and coughed from double pneumonia.

We were iced in our basement apartment in Detroit by one of the worst ice storms in remembrance.

Phones down. Just new in town. All alone.

So Mother merged bits of myth and legend she remembered from both sides of her bloodline:

Lakota and Celtic.

She was sure I would die, and she wanted my last moments to be filled, not with fear and dread, but with awe, wonder, and magic.

She told of The Turquoise Woman, whose touch was icy but whose heart was warm. My shivers were from her embrace.

And that hulking shadow at the foot of my bed?

Why, that was Hibbs, the bear with two shadows, protector of all hurting children.

He was there for me.
And a world of wonder and magic opened up in my feverish mind, birthing a happy moment for my mother:
despite the odds, I grew better.
I lived.

Have you heard about the bear?
He saved a little boy once.
A bit of that little boy still lives ... in my heart.



  1. Hibbs reminds me of a wise one, he has patience, tolerance, and enough sense to know good from evil and how to deal with it. Count me as a Hibbs fan, too. In real life - I like bears to keep their distance.

    Upcountry where some of our relatives live, grizzlies come down to the fast flowing rivers to fish for the salmon. They get hungry too.

    In native lore, bears are supposed to represent wisdom and generosity, two traits I aspire to.

    Thankfully, you were inspired to continue spreading the stories you were told and to get well!

  2. I didn't know about Grahame's child. That's really sad. Wind in the Willows is one of my ultimate favourite books ever - wise and fun and forever green. Now it's got a touch of poignancy about it!

    Awww thank goodness for Hibbs!

    Take care

  3. Give Hibbs a scratch between his ears, will ya?

    I knew about Grahame's son, but not about the suicide.

    As a child, I loved those stories. We had no money, but Mom would give me a dollar or two to spend at book fair. I would almost always have a frog and toad story. And a cat one :)

    I think Hibbs would make a fabulous chapter book. Maybe an MG....? Just a thought. It could also be adapted...typing out loud :P

    Hope your week is going to be a great one!

  4. Summer:
    Hibbs, the cub with no clue, danced a happy jig at your comment. :-)

    Hibbs makes an appearance in END OF DAYS along with Little Brother and Surt -- and the Turquoise Woman has a larger role in it.

    Yes, in real life I like to see bears ... from a distance!

    Hibbs is a D.G. fan by the way. :-)

    I aspire to the best of Hibbs in my life -- sometimes I succeed but not often enough!!

    A friend made a Hibbs the cub with no clue puppet for me as a present. He sits on top of the TV when I get a chance to watch a DVD. I sometimes hear a running commentary from the little guy if the program lags! :-)

    Words Crafter:
    My childhood was money-poor like yours. Thank goodness for the library!

    I have thought about making the tales of Hibbs, the cub with no clue, into a picture chapter book. But I have no talent at illustration, and Michael de Gesu is booked up.

    So you and I think in similar ways!

    Hibbs says to give yourself a hug and consider it from him -- it will be less crushing that way!