I very rarely comment on dead celebrities but today we lost the guy who made Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting two of the most moving pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen. A lot of you will remember him as one of his manic comedy characters. I guess that’s why he was so important in my eyes, because he wasn’t just a hilarious goon, he wasn’t just a super serious academy actor; he was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was brilliant.
I read a lot of books as a child, some were utterly forgettable, some were just plain stupid but many have left a mark on my psyche. The more that I think about it, the more it strikes me; children’s literature is the most significant form of literature. It leaves a mark on an unblemished mind, it scrawls on a blank slate, it stamps into the warm untouched mind. Everything that we view as cliched now, we only see that way because we’ve heard it a thousand times. As a young boy, first being read to or reading alone, every story is new and exciting. The first cut is the deepest they say.
I’m now 25 years old and one children’s story in particular has really stuck with me. I can’t remember the name or the exact plot, so what i’m going to do is summarise the story or at least what I remember of the story. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to simply describe what I, as a 4 year old boy, took from the story.
The Lonely Teddy Bear (definitely not it’s real title)
There is a young boy who is given a teddy bear as a baby. The big teddy bear shares the boy’s cot, then his first bed. He plays with Teddy during the days and cuddles up to him at night. As the boy gets older, from baby to toddler to child, Teddy goes through life with him, always at his side. Teddy is the boy’s first friend, loyal, warm, cuddly and sympathetic.
They play at camping, cowboys and indians, spaceships. Teddy goes on holiday with the boy and always sits in the seat beside him in the car when they go out. The boy, now five, starts at his first school. Teddy can’t go to school, seeing as he is an inanimate stuffed toy, but every day the little boy gives Teddy a big cuddle, sets him down on the bed and scampers off to school.
Soon the little boy mixes and makes friends with some of the boys at school and one saturday he has two of them come round his house to play. The boys decide to play cowboys and indians but there are only three of them and one of the boys points out that the teams are unfair. The little boy has an idea; Teddy loves playing cowboys and Indians and nanny made Teddy a little jerkin and a feather headdress for the little boy’s last birthday. The little boy brings his new friends into his room and shows them Teddy, all dressed up as a brave chieftain. The other boys laugh at the little boy. They call him a “baby” and “mummys boy”, they call Teddy “stupid” and “a baby toy”. One of the boys even punches Teddy. The little boy crys and his mother, seeing that the children are cranky, takes the other two boys home.
That evening the little boy brings Teddy to mummy and daddy and tells them that he’s a big boy now and he’s too old for Teddy. Mummy tells the little boy he shouldn’t be silly and Daddy doesn’t understand but the little boy crys and yells and eventually Daddy takes Teddy up to the loft and puts him in a box with the little boy’s first clothes.
The next time the little boy’s friends come round they all play games and have fun. The little boy likes his new friends but every night he misses his Teddy. The boys become fond friends and spend lots of time together.
A new boy joins the class and the other boys think he’s pretty cool. One weekend the little boy doesn’t see his friends. They said that they were coming round but they don’t. Back at school on monday the other boys are all laughing and smiling and talking about bowling. The little boy is confused. Confused and sad. He asks one of the boys why they didn’t come round on saturday and they other boy tells him that the new boy is cooler and fun and they do big boy things like go bowling and went to the cinema, not play stupid cowboys and indians.
The little boy is sad and cries all night at home. Daddy sees this. That night, when the boy has tired himself out from crying, he falls fast asleep. Daddy sneaks up to the loft and finds Teddy, Teddy is very cold and dusty but Daddy brushes him down and warms him up on the radiator. Daddy very gently lifts up the quilts and places Teddy, tucked up, in the little boy’s bed. Later on, the little boy puts an arm out and finds Teddy, his first and most loyal friend, who always loved him and never said mean things, warm and laying beside him. They snuggle up.
I hope I’ve managed to convey the story as well as I can remember it. This is why I have separation anxiety with inhuman objects. I can’t even throw out a sweater without sitting up at night and agonising over it. I feel guilty about not playing an Xbox game enough or paying enough attention to my laptop; I need to wear t-shirts an equal amount of times and selling my car was like losing a brother. Children’s stories; far too powerful