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Children's Stories Made Horrific - Curious George

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I knew a girl in school whose parents had named her after a character in Gor. She was excitedly waiting to be able to read the books. What a nasty surprise that must have turned out to be...

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I understand that readers would have their own interpretations. In one of the linked articles, however, I thought an author related their experience of having readers tell him that he was wrong about the theme of the book he wrote. It's one thing for a reader to say, "Oh, I thought the theme was XYZ," but another for them to insist the author's interpretations of his own work are wrong.

 

I disagree. There's definitely a school of thought that authors aren't the right people to discuss their own work. And some authors undoubtedly do a terrible job of trying to talk about their own works. I do think authors can be "wrong" about the meaning of something in a work. Or, rather, since meaning can be relative, I do think someone who is not the author can have an interpretation of a work that is more persuasive, more representative of how most people see it, and more "right" than the author's own interpretation. Once the work is written and out there, the author has to let it go. Intention is not effect.

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Do you think the average person knows what Gor is?

 

I don't know what Gor is.

 

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Do you think the average person knows what Gor is?

 

Probably not. I suspect the average role playing fantasy geek might... Though they're so old now. I would have heard of them definitely, but they stick in my head mostly because of that girl I knew. They're not my cup of tea really.

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I don't know what Gor is.

 

I really DID think it was common knowledge! And yes, that Houseplants of Gor fic is very much in the style of the original books. Except replace the plants with women. Blech.

 

Let's sum it up as really poorly written erotica. With slaves.

 

She was excitedly waiting to be able to read the books. What a nasty surprise that must have turned out to be...

 

Oh my goodness. Wow. Just... wow. I just... um... I can't even... wow.

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I really DID think it was common knowledge! And yes, that Houseplants of Gor fic is very much in the style of the original books. Except replace the plants with women. Blech.

 

Let's sum it up as really poorly written erotica. With slaves.

 

 

Oh my goodness. Wow. Just... wow. I just... um... I can't even... wow.

 

I know, right? As a fantasy reading middle schooler, I pictured something on the level of Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series, which was probably the dirtiest thing I'd ever read to that point. Of course, at some point, after I didn't know her anymore, I realized that Gor was a whole other level.

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Piers Anthony. Now, there's an author who probably thinks his works mean something different from what the rest of us think. (Normal interpretation of his works: My goodness, he certainly writes an awful lot about grown men having sex with children! His interpretation: Nah, what are you talking about?)

 

I actually read a Gor book in middle school. You see, my father was dead, and I'd been steadily working through his sci-fi and fantasy collection... the Ringworld books, the Foundation series, Earthsea, and then I found the hidden stash and, well, I didn't realize they *had* been hidden until after the fact...!

 

(And then when I mentioned this to my mother years later she let slip some details about their life together that I did NOT need to hear. I think I blocked that conversation out until this moment.)

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I'm sure reading this totally sexist, messed up stuff didn't warp us or anything, though, right, Tanaqui?  :lol:

 

Hey! That's actually a good argument to let the kids read these versions of children's stories... just kidding.

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I don't know what Gor is.

 

 

Me neither.  Never heard of it.

 

Oops, wait.  I take that back.  "Gor" was the exclamation that the girl with cauliflower ears repeatedly said in The Tale of Despereaux.

 

But I gather that's not the context we are talking about here.  (LOL)

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Years ago, when I was working in the toddler nursery at church, one of the kids brought me the book "The Ugly Duckling", and asked me to read it. 

 

I was astonished to read the title character say, "No one likes me. I have no friends. I think I will kill myself." 

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Everybody who never heard of Gor, count your blessings :)

 

I was astonished to read the title character say, "No one likes me. I have no friends. I think I will kill myself."

 

And then his soul would have gone up to heaven, and H. C. would have patted himself on the back for that happy ending. You know, it's little things like this that make people think he may have been suffering from depression.

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I disagree. There's definitely a school of thought that authors aren't the right people to discuss their own work. And some authors undoubtedly do a terrible job of trying to talk about their own works. I do think authors can be "wrong" about the meaning of something in a work. Or, rather, since meaning can be relative, I do think someone who is not the author can have an interpretation of a work that is more persuasive, more representative of how most people see it, and more "right" than the author's own interpretation. Once the work is written and out there, the author has to let it go. Intention is not effect.

This is such an interesting concept. I was only thinking about this with art. how someone can make a portrait of someone and carefully show all the lines in the face and yet not actually have an interpretation of what they mean. Whereas someone else who didn't do the picture could look at it and figure out what the lines mean about the persons expression is saying.

 

The same could be true if a book that records carefully from life. The author may observe and record something from life but not assign it a meaning and someone reading the story could grab the meaning and run with it.

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Since when does being legal (or just "doing one's job") make something moral?   :confused1:

 

The book didn't cause me to grow into a poacher, either. However, it and other books like it served to support what society taught me as a child: taking wild animals away from their families and homes is a perfectly acceptable and even desirable enterprise.

 

 

It's definitely not that way for all. Curious George was youngest dd's favorite for years. She also hates going to zoos or animal parks because of they are kept in captivity. She did a project recently for a middle school science class about Sea World and why she thinks they are wrong. Some children can truly enjoy these stories and books and still understand what's right and wrong. 

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It's definitely not that way for all. Curious George was youngest dd's favorite for years. She also hates going to zoos or animal parks because of they are kept in captivity. She did a project recently for a middle school science class about Sea World and why she thinks they are wrong. Some children can truly enjoy these stories and books and still understand what's right and wrong. 

 

I agree with your last statement, but I don't think that often happens unless parents and children are talking about these types of issues, either while reading the books or in other contexts. (I'm talking specifically about animal rights issues.) 

 

Good for your dd!  :thumbup1:

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Yeah definitely one has to employ a great deal of willful suspension of disbelief when reading the stories.  For one thing the guy in the yellow hat seems way too nice to take a monkey from his home.

 

The weirdest moment was having to explain to my kids why George was smoking a pipe (and what a pipe is).

 

A lot of old stories I think have a lot of charm, but wowsers, views change tremendously over time.  My son once picked out Tarzan to read.  I had never read it, but I knew the gist of the story.  Oh my.  There were a lot of extremely racist comments. 

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Piers Anthony. Now, there's an author who probably thinks his works mean something different from what the rest of us think. (Normal interpretation of his works: My goodness, he certainly writes an awful lot about grown men having sex with children! His interpretation: Nah, what are you talking about?)

 

I actually read a Gor book in middle school. You see, my father was dead, and I'd been steadily working through his sci-fi and fantasy collection... the Ringworld books, the Foundation series, Earthsea, and then I found the hidden stash and, well, I didn't realize they *had* been hidden until after the fact...!

 

(And then when I mentioned this to my mother years later she let slip some details about their life together that I did NOT need to hear. I think I blocked that conversation out until this moment.)

I found my dad's Gor novel, too, one day. Don't think I was supposed to.

 

That houseplant story was hilarious if you've read a Gor novel. They are exactly the same. I wonder if the person found a scene in a Gor novel and just replaced slave with houseplant.

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I'm sure reading this totally sexist, messed up stuff didn't warp us or anything, though, right, Tanaqui?  :lol:

 

That houseplant story was hilarious if you've read a Gor novel. They are exactly the same.

 

Yes, yes they are. And to answer Farrar's question (not that it needed answering), I think the main result of my reading was to cause me to have a higher standard for the literary quality of MY special adult reading material... and also to hide it better, with little post-its saying "Kids, really, you don't want to read this just now" on the covers.

 

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I didn't think it was very good.  Not that funny, not that creepy, and not really that insightful.  It got a little boring.

 

Kid's books can, I think, have sub-text, but it isn't always the same one that would be there for adults - some things are logical from the worldview of the child.  THe missing parents that someone mentioned are so common in children's books, for example.  That isn;t some kind of commentary on the role of parents, it's to some extent a narrative convenience, and I think also reflects the self-centered perspective of children about their own lives.  George I think is in that category - ending up with TMWTYH is just a narrative convenience so we can have stories about the monkey-child who does things a real child would like to do but can't.

 

I also think kids aren't given enough credit for seeing and responding to the subtext.  I suspect this is why so many kids books that are designed to be non-offensive or politically correct are so dry.  There can be a lot of humour or even a real sense of horror, a contrast or absurdity, in good kids books and many kids really like those kinds of things.  Frog and Toad are really funny because of their weird relationship, not in spite of it.  The Giving Tree is supposed to be about a bad relationship, not a good one. 

 

I have a very vivid memory of reading The Story of Ping as a child - I found it facinating.  I thought the ducks being spanked was terrible, and I didn't much like the diving birds either.  But I could understand why Ping went back, and I could never decide if that was a good thing.  Was the duck-man just trying to protect Ping?  What about the fact that he would likely be eaten?  Was it fair to hate the boat-family for wanting to eat PIng, they need food as well?

 

A lot of the authors that really capture children in a lasting way have that kind of ambiguity and moral complexity and humour that they give credit to children to be able to manage - Dhal, Silverstein, Sendak, Steig.

Edited by Bluegoat
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I'll just quote myself on the Curious George question from when we discussed this several years ago on the General Education board:

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/479206-george-was-kidnapped-from-the-jungle-and-sold-to-a-zoo/

 

The book leaves me uncomfortable also, but I recognize that's because of how times have changed. I really don't feel that any sort of nefarious motives can be ascribed to the Reys. They were German Jews escaping Paris on homemade bicycles with little more than the clothes on their backs and this manuscript hours in advance of the Nazis, not WASP Americans looking back fondly on slave days. And the book in which Curious George was first introduced is about a giraffe who is sad because her friends and family have all been captured to be sold to zoos. In the book, George (then called Fifi), his mother and siblings have been left homeless by deforestation. The animals meet up, become friends, and help each other. It really wasn't an odd choice for material given that Rey grew up next to a zoo and at one point painted circus posters for a living.

I read it to my boys last night to see what they thought. I asked DS7 how George came to live with the man with the yellow hat. He said the man captured George and took him away. I asked if that made George happy or sad. He said sad. I asked why George got in so much trouble. He said because he wasn't used to the city and that's not where he was supposed to be. I asked if he was a monkey, if he'd rather live in a zoo or the jungle. He said jungle. I asked if it was nice to take animals away from their homes. He said no.

 

DS3 was able to tell me that George was sad to leave the jungle and that he wouldn't want to live in a zoo either (he didn't understand the question about why George got in trouble).

 

Neither of my boys took away from it that taking animals from their natural habitats was a good thing. It's not something we've ever discussed so I don't think they were filtering what we read through what they'd been taught.

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I have a very vivid memory of reading The Story of Ping as a child - I found it facinating.  I thought the ducks being spanked was terrible, and I didn't much like the diving birds either.  But I could understand why Ping went back, and I could never decide if that was a good thing.  Was the duck-man just trying to protect Ping?  What about the fact that he would likely be eaten?  Was it fair to hate the boat-family for wanting to eat PIng, they need food as well?

 

 

I have read Ping to  multiple classes of primary aged students. Every single time students question why  the ducks get spanked.

 

I also read to classes Ferdinand - kids absolutely love that story and also have no problem identifying that bull fighting isn't really a nice sport; a discussion that always happens spontaneously, without me leading the conversation. Always there is one knowledgeable student who tells the class that bull fighting is bad because  in real life the bulls get tortured and killed at the finish.

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Lol. It is all a matter of perspective. I look at Ferdinand as being, essentially, a wimpy bull (not that I condone bull fighting, though). At our house viewing bulls as "nice",flower sniffing, and docile is liable to get someone killed! No! Around here you treat a bull like a loaded gun: it may go off at any moment. (Farm life has its harsh realities and you would be a dead fool to think otherwise.)

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Oh, and the Ping story. Again, from a farm perspective, Ping was far better off in the safety of the duck flock that he was out on his own. I sick my herd dog after stray cows to keep the stranglers together because the stray ones could wind up on the road and hit by a truck or something. A little nip on the heel to get them to cooperate with the safety program is definitely preferable to being plowed down by a vehicle out on the road.

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Lol. It is all a matter of perspective. I look at Ferdinand as being, essentially, a wimpy bull (not that I condone bull fighting, though). At our house viewing bulls as "nice",flower sniffing, and docile is liable to get someone killed! No! Around here you treat a bull like a loaded gun: it may go off at any moment. (Farm life has its harsh realities and you would be a dead fool to think otherwise.)

 

I guess it is a matter of perspective, because author and rancher Shreve Stockton likes to nap on her bulls and rides one of them. She calls them hunks of love. (There are more stories about her bulls here.)

 

She says, "Let’s demystify the bull, shall we?...Bulls have been given the reputation of villain, monster, evil beast with a terrible temper, and it’s unfair.  It maintains a certain mythology. It is a stereotype. While I’m sure mean bulls exist, the bulls I know are shy, sweet, gentle, and dear. They move slowly around me.  They never challenge me.  If one or two get out and find a haystack in which to bury their enormous heads, all I need to do is sidle between them and the hay and they will turn back to the pasture gate I have opened behind them.  They don’t smash me; they don’t toss me out of their way like a ragdoll in order to get more hay...Of the intact male animals I have known ~ be it feline, equine, bovine, canine ~ none have been mean animals.  None have been mean to people.  They are just really difficult to control when a cycling female is in the vicinity...Bulls will fight each other for breeding rights (as males of so many species will do), but during the rest of the year, when they are not with the cows or once the cows have all been bred, bulls live together harmoniously. It’s not that bulls aren’t dangerous. It’s that there’s a difference between dangerous and mean. It’s that any animal this size can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention or let yourself end up in the wrong place at the wrong time."

 

I'm not trying to discount your experience, but to add another perspective. 

 

Ferdinand rocks.  :001_wub:

Edited by MercyA

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My kid hated the Ping story. That smack! He wouldn't let me read it to him after the first time.

 

Which is fine, everyone has their tastes about reading and such. I don't watch The Walking Dead because I find it depressing.  But I don't think the fact that there is some ambiguity in a story means it's too much for a child,intellectually speaking.  I'd even say in some cases, kids will take a more black and white moralistic view than an adult would.

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Oh, and the Ping story. Again, from a farm perspective, Ping was far better off in the safety of the duck flock that he was out on his own. I sick my herd dog after stray cows to keep the stranglers together because the stray ones could wind up on the road and hit by a truck or something. A little nip on the heel to get them to cooperate with the safety program is definitely preferable to being plowed down by a vehicle out on the road.

 

Yeah, although in the end Ping was probably destined to be supper, one way or another.

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Which is fine, everyone has their tastes about reading and such. I don't watch The Walking Dead because I find it depressing.  But I don't think the fact that there is some ambiguity in a story means it's too much for a child,intellectually speaking.  I'd even say in some cases, kids will take a more black and white moralistic view than an adult would.

 What ? Where does not liking to read about a duck being hit = saying it's too much for a child intellectually speaking ?

 

Must have skipped that bit of the conversation. 

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I'm afraid to click the link. Kidnapping? Wow, I don't remember that in CG. I was thinking he was a stow away. I was more fixated on the fact that The Man with the Yellow Hat smoked and the author used "fat" to describe a police officer or fireman in one story (ds was taught that fat is not a word for describing people) when we read it.

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 What ? Where does not liking to read about a duck being hit = saying it's too much for a child intellectually speaking ?

 

Must have skipped that bit of the conversation. 

 

I didn't think you were saying that, but I get the impression that some people feel that difficult subjects mean its not intellectually appropriate.

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I'm afraid to click the link. Kidnapping? Wow, I don't remember that in CG. I was thinking he was a stow away. I was more fixated on the fact that The Man with the Yellow Hat smoked and the author used "fat" to describe a police officer or fireman in one story (ds was taught that fat is not a word for describing people) when we read it.

 

I remember those things, too! Here's the first part of the original story:

 

This is George. He lived in Africa. He was very happy. But he had one fault. He was too curious.

 

One day George saw a man. He had on a large yellow straw hat. The man saw George, too.
"What a nice little monkey," he thought, "I would like to take him home with me."

 

The man put his hat on the ground, and of course George was curious. He came down from the tree
to look at the large yellow hat. The hat had been on the man’s head. George thought it would be nice to have it on his own head. He picked it up and put it on.

 

The hat covered George’s head. He couldn’t see. The man picked him up quickly and popped him into a bag. George was caught.

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Yeah, although in the end Ping was probably destined to be supper, one way or another.

 

and in the wild - ping would probably still have ended up as the supper for something else.

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