Friday, August 30, 2013

The Real Mary Poppins




A few days back, Reader Wil had a post about Mary Poppins -- the movie, not the book -- and I was reminded of how dearly I'd loved those books sixty or more years ago.  And as I've held on to all my childhood books, I seized the opportunity to revisit Cherry Tree Lane and the inimitable Mary Poppins.

The books are still wonderful to read.  So many old friends -- Mrs. Corry -- who hangs the stars in the night sky. . . Maia, one of the Pleiades who descends to London to do a bit of Christmas shopping, Nellie Rubina and Uncle Dodger who bring in the spring . . .


Some scenes verge on the mystical, such as the undersea visit where Mary Poppins and Jane and Michael visit the Terrapin -- the oldest and wisest thing in the world.
"I am the Terrapin. I dwell at the roots of the world. Under the cities, under the hills, under the very sea itself, I make my home. Up from my dark root, through the waters, the earth rose with its flowers and forests. The man and the mountain sprang from it. The great beasts, too, and the birds of the air. . . .
"I am older than all things that are. Silent and dark and wise am I, and quiet and very patient. Here in my cave all things have their beginning. And all things return to me in the end. I can wait. I can wait. . . ."

Or this passage from a trip to the zoo where, after closing time, Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael meet the Hamadryad snake, the Lord of the Jungle, and he reminds the children." We are all made of the same stuff, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us -- the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star-- we are all one, moving to the same end..."
  


Well, it's no "Chim-chiminey, chim cheroo" but the magic is still there for me. I don't remember what I made of passages like this back when I was six or seven. My grandfather or grandmother read the books to me and I was entranced, never scared. I think children do best when they’re occasionally presented with material that is beyond their grasp – it encourages them to think.
I went looking for information about the author, P. L. Travers, and found, among many interesting tidbits, that she was an admirer of the mystic Gurdjieff  -- whose teachings may well have influenced the ‘mystical’ passages.
The Disney version – which I saw once, long ago, is such a watered down, sweetened up version of the Mary Poppins of the books that I’m not surprised that P.L. Travers wept at the premiere. Her battles with Disney are chronicled in a terrific New Yorker article.
I don’t know how an adult, raised on the movie version, would like the astringent Mary Poppins of the books. Nor, indeed, how a child today would respond to the magic in the words. But I wish that everyone could have met the real Mary Poppins first.

 
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16 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

It took a while but I finally got this to post. John has been arm wrestling with our router to get it to work. This post, long as is is , may have to do for today and tomorrow.

Ms. A said...

I don't know about the router, but when his TV went on the fritz, my FIL always threw a shoe at it! LOL!

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Hurrah for router working a bit, so I could see your post finally. I've been a bit worried about you. I do hope things will be fixed more permanently soon. And I never heard of Mary Poppins before the movie, so I definitely want to see what the book was like. I was raised on Golden Books, then Pollyanna, which were also sugary like Disney later became. But I did get to read Heidi.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

The Terrapin and the snake sound like Native American stories. It's the sort of thught that reaches out to my Celtic roots.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

Make that "thought"

Reader Wil said...

Thank you, Vicki. Now I must read the book of Mary Poppins too. I love this musical because of the singing and dancing and the performance of July Andrews and Dick van Dyke.the book belongs to another artform.
Have a great weekend, Vicki.
Wil

Miss_Yves said...


About Gurjieff:

http://www.bude-orleans.org/lespages/45idf/77/avon_mansfield.html


Miss_Yves said...

Very interesting post!

Miss_Yves said...

http://www.zevisit.com/tourisme/avon/le-prieure-des-basses-loges#top

Brian Miller said...

really cool to see the book...you kow, i never read them. i did see the movie. i may not have even known they were books...will check that out...

NCmountainwoman said...

Somehow I missed the Mary Poppins books! And therefore, so did my children. How dreadful. But it's never too late for me to read them. One will go to the top of the pile.

June said...

It is only recently that I discovered there were Mary Poppins books! My gorge has always risen at the little bits of the movie that I've been exposed to; I think the books would be more to my taste. I like "astringent."

Frances said...

Vicki, best wished to you and to John with the router.

Back to Mary Poppins, I wonder if since I am just too old to be a boomer, I might have more familiarity with Alice and Christopher Robin than I do with those children who met up with Mary P

I can however say that I have met Julie Andrews and encouraged her from a question of mine, to answer, "That would be loverly."

True. xo

jennyfreckles said...

Do you know, I don't think I ever set eyes on the books. I will have to remedy that! So often a book and a film are different - and maybe we can simply enjoy each as an entity in its own right. I did enjoy the film as a child.

Reader Wil said...

Me again, Vicki. When we were young my mum always read Dutch books to us and when I started reading at the age of six,seven my books were also Dutch, as we couldn 't read nor speak English. So I never read Mary Poppins. And later when I was at the secondary school, I had to read in foreign languages, among them English books as Shakespeare, Shaw , Dickens, Kipling, Keats... All those old guys. Much later I read whatever I liked among them your books, Vicki.
Now I have to read a couple of Dutch books, which I recently got. So Mary. Poppins has to wait.!!

Darla said...

Just "popped" in (ha!) for a quick look-see of your posts and saw this one -- fabulous! :-) I'd no idea that the books were so very different than the movie, but would love to read them someday.

I don't know how you manage to blog constantly. Since starting UA a couple weeks ago, I rarely find time to do more than study. But maybe that will change in a few weeks if I can hit my stride. ;-) Take care!