Sunday, September 09, 2007

Uncle Wiggly: An Appreciation

Uncle Wiggly is a rabbit gentleman obsessed with adventure, but he has peculiar ideas about what an adventure entails. In Uncle Wiggly's mind, adventure means charity. He is always looking for some human or some animal who needs his help. And help is what Uncle Wiggly almost always provides.

In the story of "Uncle Wiggly and the Poor Dog," he finds a place for a poor dog to live, and in the story of "Uncle Wiggly's Christmas," he helps two human boys have a merry Christmas. He is truly Pickwickian in his indefatigable efforts on behalf of those who need a champion, which makes me suspect the old rabbit gentleman and Mr. Pickwick were acquainted.

In fact, I know they were acquainted, through a mutual friend, the same friend who made blind men see and cripples walk. And that is really what distinguishes the great literature of the West (almost all of which in the 20th century is confined to the category of "children's literature") from the literature of the rest of the world. There is that unmistakable and unique presence in the truly European stories which makes one appreciate the sacredness of the European hearth.