20 July 2012

Meeting an Old Friend in A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

 The Green Man holds an honored place in my British Lit classroom: it's a personal thing. The world around me has always sparked wonder and respect, even as a shy bookworm of a girl who used to go to the woods with a book. I do remember taking Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table with me one day. That day ended with a retreat to the creek for a salamander-catching adventure after a couple of chapters. Even then, I think I got the Green Man and what he represented.  I felt his wildness and will even before I knew his name. So my first conscious, literary meeting with the Green Man--reading Gawain and the Green Knight in college--sent a delighted shock through my system that has not left me.
   Now I hang a wooden Green Man at the door of my classroom, to represent my love and respect for the natural world, and to remind myself and my young friends that the soul of so many of the stories we read is right in front of us: in the sky, the trees, the storms and snow that they still run to the window to see even as 17-year-olds.  So as I began A MONSTER CALLS, I was delighted to find out it was a book about my green man. Each fairy tale the monster told Conor was dark with truth and imagery, and that suited me too. It was not until I hit the monster's third story (2/3 of the way through), that I let myself remember the source of the book. Siobhan Dowd's idea, executed so beautifully by Patrick Ness, was one she had while she had cancer. So I remembered once again, that the Green Man embodies not just the wonder of the cycle of life, but the amoral power of it. 
***** Read it.

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