Thursday, April 27, 2017

Appealing Aspects of Charlotte's Web

I grew up on the 1973 movie adaption of E. B. White's Charlotte's Web. It's nice to see my youngest siblings discovering it now.

The other day my mom remarked to me that she thinks there is "something attractive about that movie" to little kids.

Now, my mom is a wise woman. And this comment of hers set me wondering--just what is that "something attractive" about Charlotte's Web?

Whatever it is, other children's stories could probably benefit from emulating it. So I thought I'd make a list of some of the things that I see in Charlotte's Web that make it appealing to adults and children alike.

(And I'm sorry if I should be burned at stake as a heretic for doing a post on the movie rather than the book. But I was crying over Charlotte and laughing at Templeton long before I knew a book existed, so it's the movie that's really lodged in my heart.)

Charlotte's Web movie 1973:
Image not mine.

1. It has an original and interesting premise. Farm stories might be more or less commonplace. But giving the lead roles to a pig and a spider? To most people, in most situations, neither one of those animals comes off as endearing. Yet the unlikely friendship between them sets the stage for a wonderful story.

Charlotte's Web - I watched this movie over and over and over... long before they made us read it in class haha:
Image not mine.

2. The characters are delightful. Each one is unique and well-developed. You've got Wilbur, a polite and loving pig who is prone to fainting spells. You've got Charlotte, a sophisticated gray spider who is vain and selfless and has a splendid vocabulary. You've got Fern, the little girl who adopts a runt piglet and talks to animals. You've got Templeton, the barnyard rat, who somehow manages to be endearing in spite of his begrudging ways. And the list goes on.

charlottes web cartoon - Google Search:
Image not mine.


3. The songs are wonderful. From the comedy of "A Veritable Smorgasboard" to the spunky optimism of "Chin Up" to the gentle poetry of "Mother Earth and Father Time," you've got to admit that this movie has some delightful music.

Charlotte's Web (1973):
Image not mine.

4. It's serious. For all its gentleness and humor, Charlotte's Web deals with one of the heftiest subjects in life: death. The conflict revolves around saving Wilbur from an untimely end at the slaughterhouse. And the ending is bittersweet--even though the goal of saving Wilbur is attained, it comes at a high price: Charlotte's life.

Charlotte's Web!:
Image not mine.

We might be tempted to think that because children are young and innocent we shouldn't stain their entertainment with any mention of death. Children are deeply serious little creatures; they think about these kinds of things, and they deserve stories that address their fears and questions rather than running from or ignoring them.

5. There is a theme of sacrificial love. Charlotte spends the last of her strength so that Wilbur might live. She gives her life in exchange for his. It's beautiful and Christ-like.

Charlotte, Charlotte's Web (1973):
Image not mine.

6. It practically shouts that life is good. There's a feeling infused throughout the movie that it's good to be alive. We get it from the very first lines about "a farm in spring." Charlotte's song about Mother Earth and Father time highlights the beauty of nature and the precious gift of life: "how very special are we for just a moment to be part of life's eternal rhyme." The goodness of life is the reason Charlotte does what she does--why she sacrifices herself for Wilbur.

The original Charlotte's Web (1973):
Image not mine.


7. Every life is worth living. Wilbur's just a runt. He would have been killed if not for Fern's very pro-life protest, "If I had been very small, would you have killed me?" Runts pop up throughout the movie--after Wilbur comes the gosling Jeffrey, and then Charlotte's daughters Joy, Arania, and Nellie. So many of the characters should be insignificant: a barnyard spider, a barnyard rat. But they aren't. Every life is precious. Wilbur even sees value in a moth he begs Charlotte to let go.

Charlotte's Web. i used to love this movie as a kid:
Image not mine.

To sum it all up: Charlotte's Web is all about "the good, the true, and the beautiful." And if you think about it, any story that's centered around these three things is going to be a great children's story.

So what do you think, friends? You have seen this movie, right? Right??? ;) Assuming you have and you like it, what's something about it that you think makes it appealing? (And who was your favorite character? Did anyone else love Templeton for some inexplicable reason as a kid?) What are some other great children's stories? And what is it that makes a children's story a good children's story?  

6 comments:

  1. It has been ages since I've seen this film!
    I appreciate how Charlotte's Web shows the power of words as well as the power of compassion.
    I remember- despite hating spiders- really liking Charlotte. I also remember disliking Fern because I didn't think a barnyard animal like a pig should be brought into the house and treating like a baby. I see now that it was a petty reason. Ten years or so later, guess who brought a rejected baby goat into the house and carried it around in a cloth wrap?

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    1. The power of words, yes! "It's not often you find someone who's a good friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both." :)

      It's funny how fiction can make you forget things like hating spiders. :) Haha, petty or not that reason strikes me as adorable. And awwwww, a rejected baby goat! How sweet! Goats are the dearest things. Even more lovable than piglets.

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  2. Oh, yes! I'd forgotten about this one. :) I never liked the story or the book much, but I have on occasion enjoyed the cartoon. And these are lovely reasons for watching it. :)

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    1. For some reason I've never been able to fall in love with the book, either. Probably because I was so used to the cartoon. :) Although, I've only read it once if I remember correctly, so maybe next time I'll like it more.

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  3. Hi, Lucy! Sorry for rudely being off-topic, but I tagged you for the Hobbit tag I just created... if you feel like doing it! Here it is: https://storyanddarkchocolate.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/even-more-sunshiny-goodness/

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    1. Ooh, thank you, Kate! This sounds amazing! I can't wait to go check it out!

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