Is it altruistic or egotistical to dig up things that you loved from your childhood for your own children?
It’s one thing to look back fondly on things that you treasured from your own childhood and want your kids to share the same feelings of delight, but can you really expect the things that made an impression on kids in the 1980s to still have an impact in the 2010s? Is it self-indulgent to want your kids to like the same kinds of books you liked as a child, or should you be satisfied if they can get the same experiences from their telegraphicly controlled Playstation 9 holograph edition? Is it unreasonable to want your kids to appreciate the same things that you do?
I don’t know, but I’m hoping there’s some cross-generational continuity. It would be nice to share some experiences across the generations.
To this end, I recently went about tracking down children’s book that left a particularly vivid impression in my childhood imagination. I’m not sure what prompted it but when I was very young, I went through a phase when I devoured mythology from all around the world (Greek, Norse, Indian etc). I’d sit in the library reading them like comic books for hours. It was all very ComicCon/D&D in retrospect; what can I say? I was just a kid.
Out of all of those hours reading myths from around the world, the only one that I still remember clearly to this day was “The Quinkins” by Percy Trezise and Dick Roughsey. The Quinkins was a series of books that told the stories of an Aboriginal tribe in Cape York. The stories included mythological creatures; evil ones called Imjim and good ones called Timara. The didn’t look like any of the creatures I’d seen in other countries’ myths. The Imjim looked like over-sized bipedal beavers with and fangs. Timara’s were giant, skinny creatures with large droopy ears. They were just so different to anything else I had seen in the other library books.
Timara and Imjim in Rock Painting
Partly because of how odd The Quinkins was, and despite the vividness of my memory, I’d almost convinced myself that the books didn’t exist until recently. I’d never come across the books, or the Quinkins myths again after leaving primary school. I’d forgotten the names of the characters, which despite the emergence of Google meant that no matter how vivid the images were, finding the books was impossible.
Thankfully, in one of the serendipitous moments that makes the current Information Age in which we live so wonderful, I recently stumbled on a post at the Meanjin blog, Spike, by someone who had had a very similar experience to me, but was lucky enough to come across the book at a second hand sale.
Newly inspired I set out to track down a copy of The Quinkins so that my children could experience this strange, uniquely Australian story. After a bit of fishing around Amazon Marketplace, I managed to track down a copy for a reasonable price (not the 40 quid that a number of people seem to be charging) and arrange for it to be shipped to Oz.
Now I’m just going to have to wait and see whether The New Kid On The Block is as impressed by it as I was…