(urth) Slow Children at Play
JBarach at aol.com
JBarach at aol.com
Wed Sep 12 09:54:45 PDT 2007
Have we discussed "Slow Children at Play" on this list? I looked in the
archives and couldn't find anything, but perhaps I missed it. There are
SPOILERS in what follows.
It seems to me that Mark may be an angel ("I c-came from the sky ... Yes!
F-from the sky! I f-fell, oh, f-fell so many, many. I h-had wings"). As that
quotation indicates, he would be a fallen angel, though he doesn't appear to
be evil here.
But if Mark is an angel and Gene is a man, what exactly is Joe (Mark says "I
c-came from the sky ... J-Joe out of the ground"). Is he in some sense an
The light turns out to be a fire with a man standing in front of it ("in
it," Gene says, the way we speak of "the Man in the Moon"). But when the man
turns, he reveals, "not his back, but an entire new being: a live griffin,
eagle-clawed and many-winged." Furthermore, "that figure was horned like a
Viking or a devil; and as I looked, it roared like a lion."
The description sounds terrifying. But what is a griffin? A griffin is a
GOOD creature in mythology, and as Borges points out, was seen as a symbol of
Jesus Christ because it had two natures. It was both a lion and an eagle.
This particular griffin isn't just a griffin, though. It also has the face of
a man and horns like a Viking or a devil ... or an OX (and of course an ox
is where a Viking got his horns).
What has characteristics of an ox, a lion, an eagle, and a man? A cherub.
In the Bible, cherubim (the plural of "cherub") aren't chubby babies. They
are the creatures that were fashioned on top of the ark of the covenant, which
is God's footstool. God is described as enthroned above the cherubim.
And when Ezekiel sees God, the creatures he is enthroned above are cherubim.
Each of them have four faces: "As for the likeness of their faces, each had
the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right
side; each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side; and each of the
four had the face of an eagle" (Ezek. 1:10).
It seems to me, then, that the creature Gene sees is a cherub. (He's also
remarkably like a sphinx in some ways, but then sphinxes seem to me to combine
the same sorts of animals that cherubim do.) Now factor in that the cherub
"still stood like a sentry before its fire, which appeared to revolve
majestically now, grown even larger and more brilliant."
Isn't this pretty much straight from Genesis 3:24, where God drives Adam and
Eve from the Garden, "and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of
Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree
of life"? Here, as in "Slow Children at Play," we have cherubim standing
guard and we have a flame that "turned every way" ("revolved" is a possible
translation of the Hebrew).
Joe later tells Gene that Mark plays and that he plays and that last night
Gene played with them. I don't know exactly what that means, but I wonder
about any connection between it and Eden.
The cherubim tells the three that he will bring them again to the sun, but
that it will not be for Gene's sake and certainly not for Mark's (and he looks
disdainfully at Mark, which again suggests to me that he may be a fallen
angel), and not even for Joe's (and he speaks to Joe "more kindly," which again
suggests to me that Joe isn't human or angelic and may therefore be ... an
animal?). It appears to me that Joe and Mark get to enter the Garden and
play, but Gene, seeing the cherubim's other faces, flees. He is not (yet)
allowed to enter into the Garden. You have to become like a little child in order
to enter the kingdom, Jesus says.
And what's the significance of the poem at the end? What's the source, too?
It appears to indicate that we are to read the story, not as a horror story
(though that's how Gene, the narrator, tells it, because for him it is
horrific and he thinks he's had a psychotic episode), but as something good and
peaceful. The play of the "slow children" is part of the cosmic dance and is a
One more comment: What's particularly fascinating about this story is the
link between it and "The Arimaspian Legacy." The house in which Gene, Joe, and
Mark live seems at first to be in our world, but it's a city in which
everything to the south is in ruins AND it's the same house in which David
Arimaspian stepped through a window to his death, as Gene tells us.
There's a load of stuff hidden in the next line: "And so I remained where I
was, studying, or rather, pretending to study, G. T. Griffith's _Mercenaries
of the Hellenistic World_; though when I thought of David, the nominal 'best
friend' of my childhood, the author's name became anathema to me and I covered
it (for it appeared at the top of the page) with one hand."
Thinking about David makes the name of G. T. Griffith anathema to Gene.
Why? Perhaps because Griffith had something to do with David's death? Is it
possible that "G. T. Griffith" actually is Gene himself, and that he had
something to do with the death of his "nominal" (N.B.!) "best friend"? Or what?
Anyway, I throw this out for your consideration. Nutria, if you're still on
the list, I could use your insights, in particular.
John Barach (541) 531-2906
Pastor, Reformation Covenant Church (CREC)
706 Beekman Avenue
Medford, OR 97501
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