Childhood, Food and Fantasy
Christiane Maria Binder
Childhood, Food and Fantasy. The Baggins and the Took Side of Life
ISBN 978-3-86821-751-3, 400 S., kt., € 45,50 (2018)
In numerous British fantasies for children, eating and drinking feature substantially. In addition, the narratives make intriguing statements about children and childhood. The present monograph examines the fantasy genre through these two major concepts of childhood and food. The texts chosen for discussion are classic specimens of high and low or domestic fantasy: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871/72), Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It (1902), Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit or There and Back Again (1937). The subtitle of this study, “the Baggins and the Took side of life,” refers to two contrasting lifestyles: to avoid or to indulge in adventures. At the same time it neatly symbolizes the tensions between the realistic and the phantastic. It is between these two poles that decisive experiences are made – for protagonists and readers – and a unique kind of truth emerges. The fantasies are read against the background of the contemporary children’s culture, especially the food culture of the time. These decades were crucial for the emergence of new conceptions of childhood and the emancipation of Children’s Literature, especially fantasy for children. The major concern of this study is thus the socio-cultural significance of food and meals in representations of childhood in Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war fantasy. Food is treated here as a cultural metaphor. The study of its realistic and fantastic functions contributes to an exploration of the poetics and politics of food. Moreover, it allows us a fuller look into the emergence and diversification of the generic paradigm of fantasy, one of the most fascinating and complex types of texts.
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