This week, Dewey asked us to reflect fondly on our favorite childhood books. I expect this should be easy for me, but it’s not. . . I read all the time as a kid – even in church – but I don’t have great memories of those books specifically, just of the experience of reading.
But there is one element of childhood books that has stuck with me – centaurs. I have a great affection for these mythical creatures, which is odd because I’m not a big fan of horses (I was thrown as a child.) But these half-human, half-horse creatures, I love them.
The love affair started, I think, with The Chronicles of Narnia, books that are still my all-time favorites. I love Tumnus (and yes, I know he’s a faun, not a centaur), but I have admiration, awe, and respect for the centaurs. They have always seemed so powerful, so quiet, so strong to me.
But my truly deep affection for these creatures began with a book called Alpha Centauri by Robert Siegel, one of the few books I owned as a kid (we were big library goers; I still am). I have it sitting beside me now as I write, and it’s taking everything I have to finish this post before I read it again. Everyone should read it – especially if you’re a fan of fantasy. In this book, Becky, a normal girl of course, gets sent through time and space to help the centaurs in a battle. I’m not saying anymore because you should just read it. . . .
What makes me love all of these books, and those by Madeline L’Engle (I still have my copy of A Wrinkle in Time, which has, now that I think about, centaur-like creatures, too), is that normal kids, kids like I was (still am?) meet the magical in the world. They get to experience the world that I believe exists beyond our senses. That was always my dream as a lonely, bookwormish kid – to get great adventure with good friends – in fact, that still is my dream.
There’s something about the energy of a book that steps beyond the traditionally-accepted confines of reality – those books seem to tap into something that undergirds everything, like a stream of silver power that flows beyond our senses, and I long to touch that stream, even today.
So my fond memories, greatly stirred by this post, are of the centaurs and the magical in children’s books, where I moved beyond my clumsy body and flew through the woods on the backs of centaurs, my legs flanking them, my arms hugging their necks tightly. Anybody seen a centaur lately?
On a slightly off note, I went looking for an image of a centaur, and I must say I find it a little creepy that people dress as centaurs . . . which I know may be hypocritical but still. If you’re interested in what I’m talking about, just do a Google Image search for “centaur.” You’ll see.