Thursday, 1 September 2016

Dear Eeyore

Dear Eeyore,

I'm sorry that it's taken me such a long time to write to you. Everything has been very hectic here and I am going through some big changes in life that really required a lot of attention. I really hope you don't think I've neglected you! I know that, when Christopher Robin went to school, and whenever Pooh tells you about his day, you do sometimes feel that you are left behind, or left out of events, and for that I am really sorry it's taken me so long to write.

You might not know this, but you were my mum's favourite animal in the 100 Acre Wood. At least, I am certain I remember her telling me that, and at every birthday or Christmas there would undoubtedly be an Eeyore related gift or item around; that's something I bet you like knowing, eh?

Do you ever think that you personify (or would the correct word here be 'donkify'?) the 'British Condition'? And by that I mean a perhaps grey, somewhat pessimistic outlook on life - not that this is meant to be insulting by any stretch! Ah, perhaps it is a bit - though I think that even though you will act mildly outraged upon reading this, you aren't too bothered overall. All the qualities that I identify in you that perhaps reflect the condition, if in fact there even still is one (you are a donkey slightly out of time now I think), are incredibly endearing of your character. For these reasons, I think that not only my mum, but so very many people love you and consider you one of the top animals in the 100 Acre Wood. So it must be a good thing!

That's something I've always thought at least. So much so that, I don't think you know this, while I was studying abroad in the United States during university, I took part in a cultural studies class. In the class, we were partnered with students from other countries in the world, and we shared some well-known literature from our cultures. I chose you and the other animals in the 100 Acre Wood (classic, before Disney) and you in particular was someone I took joy in teaching the other students about.

I hope that this letter finds you well Eeyore, and I will try not to neglect you so in the future. 

Love from
Jenny x

Winnie-The-Pooh, A.A. Milne (1926)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Dear Hermione

Dear Hermione,

When I was 7, my older brother's school teacher at the time introduced me to you, Harry, Ron and Hogwarts and from the immediate get go I fell in love with you and everything you did, said and stood for.

In a way, and I'm sure you're tired of hearing this but I would be upset if I didn't at least try to let you know, I felt that you were a reflection of me. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say I was a reflection of you? Nevertheless, I identified similarities between the two of us, particularly in your first couple of years at school, and felt an instant connection. I realise now how important to me it was at the time, to have such a key heroine that I could identify with and look up to. And you are a heroine, not just a sidekick! You were just so much more aware than everyone else in Hogwarts, and not just because of your intelligence, but you just cared and were empathetic. I could go on, but I don't want my letter to you to sound too sycophantic!

Fundamentally, you were and are an important person to me. On any list of characters and influences I felt shaped me as a child, you are certainly on the list and rather close to the top (I can't tell you the definitive position until I actually compile said list!).

Because you're so well read, you must have some favourite muggle fairy tales, or even Disney movies perhaps, that you like to think of or go back to. For me, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie is one of my favourite, classic adventure tales to go back to, and also Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. What are your favourites? I've been thinking a lot about what your answer might be, but I can't quite decide what you would say! I have a feeling you are less than impressed with most Disney Princess tales, because you're so capable at saving yourself and your friends from spells and creatures that you don't need a prince to come and save you! Because I want to be so like you, I hope Mulan is your favourite Disney film, as it was mine growing up - though Tangled is right up there! Or Beauty and the Beast - you must like that one too? I wonder, do you keep up with modern muggle entertainment? Perhaps not - I am sure there is plenty to be interested by in the wizarding world.

Have you ever given any thought to what drives you? As in, what motivates you to be the best in class/to do the best that you can do? Because you do put in so much hard work and I know Ron takes it for granted the time you spend working hard to get the results you deserve. I always worked hard to prove I was as good as the boys - perhaps that sounds cliché, oh so stereotypical feminist, but it's the truth. And for you, a combination of being a girl but also a muggle. Plus, it must have been wonderful and magical and terrifically exciting to learn about the wizarding world and to be invited to be a part of it! An opportunity not to be forsaken but to be sucked up as much as humanly possible.

Regardless of what drives you, your motivation is another endearing quality that just caused me to love you all the more. Do just keep on 'doing you' (I've heard this being said on podcasts and I love it!) and inspiring yourself and everyone around you. Can't wait to hear more about what you've been doing and about your daughter.

Love from

Jenny x

Harry Potter Literary Series, J. K. Rowling (1997-2007)

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Dear Matilda

Dear Matilda,

I'm just going to get right into the crux of my letter to you, and write that you were definitely one of the first great female inspirations to me growing up. You may only be 5 years old, but as Miss Honey so rightly puts it, you are a 'grown-up child' and your wit, wisdom, and natural curiosity really resonated with me, and undoubtedly other boys and girls growing up!

It wasn't just that you were insanely clever (and not that, as a child, I was as clever as you, though I was known to be called a swot and goody-two-shoes from time to time) but that you had this awareness of the fact that you were also overlooked for being a girl. As a young girl, I didn't have the appreciation I feel I have for feminism now, but you certainly put me on the right path and awareness early on, so thank you for that!

You were also just so splendidly well read! I do envy you and your ability to read so widely, so young, purely for the time you can spend reading!! You told Mrs Phelps that Charles Dickens' Great Expectations was probably your favourite book; why is that? I just love to know the reason's behind someone's favourite tale. Perhaps it was your first true escape from everyday life. I really struggle to get into Dickens myself. You must have several other favourite books, I would love to know what they are too.

Have you read Harry Potter? That's the question, isn't it. I will probably ask this of everyone I write to, but you in particular would love the books; you aren't dissimilar to Hermione Granger. I wonder if you went to Hogwarts, that you would be able to keep your powers, because your mind would be challenged in a new way. Maybe it's not worth dwelling on that, I am still waiting for my Hogwarts letter after all ...

Undoubtedly this is a silly question, so thanks in advance for your patience, but how did you feel, specifically, every (or any) time your parents reacted the way they did to your love of reading and learning? Perhaps more accurately I should say 'lack of reaction' as they didn't seem to care, though your father adamantly seemed to want to discourage it. I ask because you do seem to react pretty calmly to their remarks; perhaps you are just used to it, or at that point you were so far detached from them and others that you don't, for want of a better word, care? Don't answer if it makes you feel uncomfortable, please! But you did readily run to live with Miss Honey, so I suppose that is an answer.

I'm really glad you found, not only a friend, but a guiding and nurturing guardian such as Miss Honey in the end. And you're such a hero for saving her! Ah Miss Trunchbull, we could write so much about her couldn't we? But good for you, chasing her off quickly so that you and Miss Honey could get on with your lives.

Do you know Mr Wonka, of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? I Imagine the two of you would get on like a house on fire! Or should I say a house of chocolate? (Too much of a stretch?) You are both certainly highly intelligent and have magical qualities to you. After a time I don't doubt that your eccentricities will increase and you could match his, though he is quite eccentric. A dinner party with the two of you would be fascinating - consider that an open invitation!

Now you have the world at your fingertips, what do you want to be or do when you grow up? I have a romantic idea that you've become a terrific university professor, or a librarian helping to pass on your love and passion of reading and learning to everyone you encounter. Sure, you could be famous, or a spectacular scientist (hey, if that's what you are aiming for - do it!), but I just love the romance of the quiet genius, though some might argue you owe it to the world to do more. Would you agree? I would urge you to stay away from politics though. That's a purely selfish request, but I think you would do better and do more in the world of academia. Oh, perhaps you could start a school! I think you and Miss Honey would run a spectacular school.

I'll let you get back to it now - thanks for reading my letter. Just to say again that you were an important role model to me growing up; I may not have appreciated it at the time, but revisiting your excellent story now really makes me see and appreciate some of the lessons and beliefs that I gleaned from your tale.

Love from

Jenny x

Matilda, Roald Dahl (1988)