Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit


Illustration from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
by Sir John Tenniel (PD-1923)
"There is a curtain, thin as gossamer, clear as glass, strong as iron, that hangs for ever between the world of magic and the world that seems to us to be real."

The time between 1858 and 1925 is known as the golden age of children's literature. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Princess and the Goblin, The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, Peter Pan and many other books influenced children and adults alike. The industrial revolution along with numerous scientific discoveries changed the way people viewed the world.  Anything seemed possible and the curtain between this world and the magical world seemed to be at its thinnest. One of the many authors to feel the effect was Edith Nesbit, author of The Enchanted Castle (1907). Nesbit and a multitude of other authors inspired great works like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia and my all time favorite, the Harry Potter series.

"He had the extraordinary feeling so difficult to describe, and yet so real and unforgettable - the feeling that he was in another world."

Edith Nesbit is not a popular author for classic children's books in America. After reading The Enchanted Castle, I feel she should be. You are taken on a wild, magical ride full of mystery and laughs. I would love to see this story made into a movie. There are great lesson to be learned in Nesbit's books like being polite, not to lie or steal and to be brave. Another teaching tool would be to show how times have changed and/or improved from the early 20th century. One thing to remember when reading classics, these were the groundbreaking works that led to what we have today. Many books may seem unoriginal and less exciting but if you put yourself into the time period the book was written and open your mind a magical experience awaits. Below is a brief description of the book.
The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit
Brothers Gerald and James are staying at sister Kathleen's school for the holidays. They couldn't go home because their cousin, who was already at their house, got the measles. They all wrote home saying they didn't want to stay with a local, Miss Hervey, who lived in a "house where it is impossible to play".  The only people, besides themselves, at the school are the French mistress and Eliza the maid. The children pretty much have free reign once Gerald gets on Mademoiselle's good side and get permission to go out into the woods during the day. The next day they set out in search of a cave with a castle nearby that Gerald heard about at school. While sitting down to rest and eat he almost falls into a hole which turns out to be the cave. Gerald bravely leads the others through a passage, into a gully and under arches until they entered upon a picturesque garden with a lake, maze and castle beyond. 

Illustration from The Enchanted Castle 
by H. R. Millar (PD-1923)
"I'm going to believe in magic as hard as I can. This is an enchanted garden, and that's an enchanted castle, and I'm jolly well going to explore."

As they hungrily try to reach the end of the maze they meet a princess. If only they new then the number of twist and turns their future's held and how often they would be hungry. They play in a secret room where they find "it" (It's not "It" from Five Children and It) and unexpected things start to happen. The story is packed with magic and adventure at every turn. Oh and did I mention trouble.

Illustration from The Enchanted Castle 
by H. R. Millar (PD-1923)
Trying to deal with the real world and the unusual circumstances circling around the enchanted castle at the same time can be trying. While the children deal with all types of situations and people they also have to figure out the secrets of the castle and what they found in the hidden room. This is a delightful read for both children and adults and stands the test of time.
Final Sketch: Harry Potter Book One courtesy of Elisabeth Alba
 "I don't understand how railway trains and magic can go on at the same time."
What are your favorite books written in the golden era of children's literature? Have you read The Enchanted Castle or anything else by Edith Nesbit? Let me know your thoughts on this or any of her other books below in the comments. Also, you should hear about Nesbit's real life dramas, but that's another story. Lastly, check out the enchanting illustrations by Elisabeth Alba in the link above. Happy reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment