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GIRL IN A CAGE

Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 6 months ago

02 October 2002 GIRL IN A CAGE by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris, Philomel/Putnam, September 2002

 

"It's always the old to lead us to the war

Always the young to fall." --Phil Ochs

 

A few days ago, I read PARVANA'S JOURNEY by Deborah Ellis. It is an equally impressive sequel to her acclaimed story, THE BREADWINNER. The heroine of both those books is a young girl in recent-days Afghanistan, who conceals herself as a boy in order to survive. PARVANA'S JOURNEY is, in essence, the story of four parentless children tossed around that war-torn country like stray puzzle pieces in a young giant's toy chest. For a portion of the tale, as if this were some bizarre skit by Python or Second City, Parvana and her young companions provide for themselves by harvesting the daily goods and various animal parts that become available to them in a nearby field that had been earlier sown with land mines.

 

Somalia. Ethiopia. Bosnia. Northern Ireland. Haiti. Gaza...

 

Through the years the list of exotic places from where we've viewed the young victims, prisoners and child refugees grows as relentlessly as my middle-aged waistline.

 

And so, in this context, I see GIRL IN A CAGE as much more than just a vivid and entertaining work of historical fiction for young people. (Not that it doesn't more than merit kudos in that regard.)

 

GIRL IN A CAGE is a captivating story built upon the fact that at the dawn of the 14th Century, King Edward I imprisoned Robert Bruce's eleven-year-old daughter, Marjorie, in a cage while her father waged the guerilla war that in real life eventually resulted in freedom for Scotland and the rise of the Stuart dynasty.

 

"Dear Lord, if it is not too much to ask, could you please send less wind and fewer turnips?

"The wind rattles the iron bars of my cage making me shake like an old man at his prayers.

"As for the turnips, the good folk of Lanercost should rather eat them than throw them at me. It would be better for all our souls.

"If Father is ever king in more than name, I shall remember those turnips.

"And the people who threw them."

 

Marjorie Bruce (or de Brus) is a princess wannabe who will appeal to young readers who have outgrown those other stories and journals of various princesses and pretenders of olden times or modern days. This story alternates between Marjorie's days of imprisonment and the events leading up to her capture.

 

A tale in which a medieval king holds his opponent's young daughter hostage seems to me fittingly symbolic for today's ongoing cycle of atrocities in which old men continue to sacrifice the welfare of future generations in exchange for revenge, oil, ego, and religion (the latter being, unfortunately, as new a concept as the Crusades of Longshanks' era).

 

But the highlight of this tale is the battle of wills between Edward, the aged king who keeps raising the stakes in an attempt to compel her loyalty, and Marjorie, the "Playhouse Princess" whose determination to be true to herself and her father results in her transformation and, as the authors may intend us to conclude, changes the course of history:

 

" 'You think perhaps your father will rescue you? You think that he is free?' Longshanks scoffed.

"I go cold. Has he come then to tell me Father has been captured? Without meaning to, I lean toward him.

" 'He is no more free than you are. The sea bounds him on three sides while I hold the fourth. Scotland is not his kingdom but his cage.' " "Not captured then. I lean back, away from him. Whatever else he has to tell me, it is not what I most fear. I can bear anything if Father is still free.

" 'Speak, damn you,' he says.

"I think about what I will say if I choose to speak. I think about it for a long time. I choose my words carefully. I go over them again and again in my head.

"Just as Longshanks is gathering himself to stand, I finally open my mouth. " 'If Father's kingdom is a cage, then my cage will be a kingdom,' I declare. 'It is not I who am locked in, but you who are locked out.'

"Edward smirks. He has made me speak. He thinks he has won. 'What nonsense. You are a vexatious child.'

 

"But I know that my words have wounded him."

 

Richie Partington

http://richiespicks.com

BudNotBuddy@aol.com

 

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