Friday, February 11, 2011

The Gawgon and The Boy

Lloyd Alexander is best known for his Chronicles of Prydain series, full of medieval magic, horned kings, and black cauldrons. But he was able to find the fantastic even within more familiar settings, as with The Gawgon and The Boy.

Our narrator, David, is boy bursting with imagination and an overriding sense of adventure in 1920s Philadelphia. Out of school after a bout of pneumonia, adventure eventually leads him into trouble and he is placed under the tutelage of his Aunt Annie, or as he first knows her, the fearsome Gawgon.

As their lessons progress, David finds that the Gawgon (read: gorgon; misapprehended words are a running element of the narration) is really more of an Auntie Mame, broadening his horizons, holding lessons in the park, and introducing him to a world of art and literature. David is an instinctive storyteller and he interjects his imagined adventures into the plot throughout. The stories mirroring his life in the wrappings of myths and pirates, we see his admiration for the Gawgon grow as she develops from mortal enemy to sidekick and all-powerful hero.

David's new world of art and literature comes more and more to influence his stories, blending their plots and lessons into his imagination. As the stock market crash hits and he enters the Great Depression, his ability to frame external life within his internal narrative allows him to see his challenges as the sort that Sherlock Holmes, and of course the Gawgon herself, can conquer without problem, providing him with resilience in the midst of a confusing world. As David beings to find his calling in creativity, Alexander gently speaks to the inherent value that make the arts a lasting necessity.

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