The Child Carries the Divine
Here’s a storytelling principle I use sometimes when I’m trying to evaluate an idea or a story I’m working on.
The Child carries the Divine.
If I have a character who’s a child (this applies as well to animals, both wild or domesticated), I ask myself, “Is there some mystical or transcendent aspect to this character?”
I find it’s almost always true.
I’m not sure what this means, or even how to apply this idea to the story. I’ve just found that it seems to hold water more times than not.
The Divine Child is an archetype. Joseph Campbell tells us that. And certainly we can rattle off a raft of examples, from Jesus to Krishna to the child Apollo, who slew the Python.
The same principle seems to apply to animals. The Black Stallion, Bambi, Elsa the Lion, Two Socks and Cisco, Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and every dog and cat and critter from Lassie to Free Willy to Tom and Felix, with the possible exceptions of Garfield and Rocket Raccoon.
The power element (I’m guessing as I’m writing this) seems to be innocence.
The Child and the Animal inhabit the present moment. The wild wolf or eagle seem to carry what my friend Christy calls “God energy.” They act from instinct. Their actions are uncontaminated by rational thought or hesitation or second-guessing, or even guilt or shame.
When we have a child or an animal as a central character in our story, that story often has its crisis and climax built around them. Addie Loggins in Paper Moon, Mattie Ross in True Grit, not to mention Secretariat and Seabiscuit, and even the shark in Jaws.
The adult human characters must make a moral decision in the climax and somehow that choice revolves around the Child or the Animal, who always, it seems, represents the Good and the True.
Again, I don’t know what any of this means. But it’s interesting to think about, isn’t it?