A father and his 10-year-old son were in the store the other day, both of them big readers and good customers. The young lad and I had the following conversation.
Lad: I’m looking for What Is the Story of Dracula. Your website said you had a copy in stock.
Kenny: Sure. It should be over here in the Who Was spinner.
Lad: There it is!
Kenny: (Ducks out and grabs a book a few displays down) If you’re interested in vampires you might like Threads of Magic. I just finished it and, aside from being kind of sensational, it had some great evil in it. There are Specters who are kind of soul-consuming cousins of vampires.
Lad: Is that fiction? I really prefer non-fiction.
Kenny: That’s interesting. I enjoy both. With history, for example, it can sometimes blend with fiction, as the guy who wrote The Lord of the Rings said, “I much prefer history true or feigned.”
Lad: Prefer over what?
Lad: What’s Allegory?
Kenny: It’s making a fictional story that actually is a version of a real historical event, like a war or a religious conflict.
Lad: I think I like allegories.
Kenny: I can’t say that.
Lad: What’s the difference between a hippogriff and a gryphon?
Kenny: Well they are both part eagle on top, but a gryphon is a lion in the rear and a hippogriff is a horse. They can both fly though.
Lad: I think a gryphon would be scarier and meaner.
Kenny: Maybe a bit. Hippogriffs are probably a bit more aloof and distant.
Lad: You could never ride either one maybe, but a gryphon has a bad temper and would probably bite your head off. It’s the scariest creature.
Kenny: For me that would be a mantichore.
Kenny: Definitely. One hundred percent bad temper and a huge scorpion’s tail.
Lad: Some magical animals that can fly are nice. Like Pegasus.
Father: Well, I don’t know, I think Pegasus is hard to ride and sometimes throws people off high up in the air, and they fall to their deaths.
Lad: I guess I won’t try and ride Pegasus.
Kenny: You know actually there is one time you can ride a hippogriff. If you sleep with a giant hippogriff’s egg in you arms and it hatches, you can have the hippogriff take you wherever you desire. Except that you have to be firm of purpose and pure of heart to get there or the hippogriff will throw you off and toss you to your death.*
Lad: I would never be able to ride a hippogriff. It would throw me off.
Kenny: Oh I don’t know. What if your dad were trapped on an island that could only be reached by a magical creature and you found a hippogriff’s egg, and it hatched in your arms and in the emergency to save your dad your heart was firm and pure of purpose and you rode the hippogriff to the island and saved your father?
Lad: I don’t know. I think it would throw me off.
Kenny: I don’t know, I kind of think you might save your dad.
Lad: I guess maybe I could ride a hippogriff.
Conversations like this are why I loathe the CDC for its fictional vaccine honor rule. The safety of the children in our stores is a matter of non-fiction.
*”And thus cometh this steed to the birth: when one of might and heart beyond the wont of man sleepeth in this land with the egg in his bosom, greatly desiring some high achievement, the fire of his great longing hatcheth the egg, and the hippogriff cometh out therefrom, weak-winged at first as thou hast seen a butterfly new-hatched out his chrysalis. Then only mayst thou mount him, and if thou be man enow to turn him to thy will he shall bear thee to the uttermost parts of earth unto thine heart’s desire. But if thou be aught less than greatest, beware that steed, and mount only earthly coursers. For if there be aught of dross within thee, and thine heart falter, or thy purpose cool, or thou forget the level aim of thy glory, then will he toss thee to thy ruin.” The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison