Thursday, July 26, 2007

Little Tom Thumb

Now that I’ve actually read Charles Perrault’s “Little Tom Thumb,” I can see how clearly the story inspired Mourlevat’s The Pull of the Ocean.

Tom is small, does not speak, and has six older brothers—all twins—just like Yann. Tom and his brothers are stalked by an ogre with seven daughters. Yann and his brothers are also threatened by a man with seven daughters.

Unlike Yann, though, Tom and his brothers do not run away from home. Because of their poverty, the parents abandon their children in the woods—they abandon them to their deaths.

One character in The Pull of the Ocean speculates that Yann and his brothers fled for similar reasons. Like Tom Thumb, he thinks, maybe Yann believes he and his brothers are in danger. And instead of being left in the woods—instead of being killed—the boys flee to safety.

Ultimately, Tom Thumb becomes a rich courier. He returns to his parents, and they all live in luxury.

The Pull of the Ocean ends with Yann’s fate unclear. Since Mourlevat deliberately patterns his book on Tom Thumb, though, the reader could assume that Yann will also be successful. He will also find wealth, and his family will benefit from it.

I suspect, though, that Yann simply isn’t so altruistic.

Perrault ends his story with a moral:

Having many children seldom brings unhappiness,
Especially if they are attractive, well-bred, and strong.
But if one is sickly or is slow of wit,
How often is he despised, jeered at, and scorned!
Although sometimes it is this oddest one
Who brings good fortune to all the family!

I am banking on this moral to be true. Surely, I am the oddest one in my family (actually, I do have some pretty odd siblings). Perhaps that means I will find fortune.

1 comment:

Wanna-Be Lit said...

Hey! Who are the odd siblings? (Just kidding--you don't have to answer that question.)