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)

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