Author / Artist / Cyclist / Dog lover
A Christmas Coral (sic)
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The first edition of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a ghost story of Christmas” was published on 19th December 1843. While most of us are familiar with at least the bare bones of the story, the original (as the full, rarely used, title suggests) is somewhat darker than more recent, sanitised versions suggest - almost a gothic novel in some ways. True to form, Dickens’ prime targets were not just the destructive force of greed and rampant capitalism, but the broader, more fundamental issues that he felt underlay so many of the problems of the day: “Ignorance and Want”.
Both these terms had slightly different connotations at that time than perhaps they do today. “Ignorance” might equate more to “lack of education or understanding”, while “Want” more specifically suggests a lack of basics essential to life and is much closer to the modern word “need”.
Nearly 180 years on and I can’t help but feel that many of the ills the modern world faces still rest on those twin evils, persisting in some form or other in all corners of the globe. Climate change, pollution, war and disease continue to cast long shadows over much of the progress that has been achieved since Dickens’ time.
Like Dickens in some ways, I see two underlying factors in our own behaviour which challenge our attempts to address these issues.
The first (which you could equate to a version of “ignorance”) relates to our unique vision that humans are somehow “special”, unique in the living (or non-living) world and more importantly that we are above every other form of life in some way. For centuries it is this sense of privilege or entitlement that has shaped our attitude towards and behaviours with the natural world - almost always to its detriment. As readers of any of my “Rodentia” series of books will know, I have previously elevated other animals to lead positions in my stories precisely to try to re-balance this view of our own significance (you'll find links to these on Amazon under the Books section of this website).
Secondly (and this shows an interesting path in the evolution of language itself), the concept of ‘want’ has changed, and demonstrates perhaps in a single word the dangers of inequality which persists and presents, if anything, perhaps an even bigger threat than it did in Dickens’ day. The difference between what so many of us “want” in terms of consumption of material contrasts as starkly as ever with what others need. Specifically, where Dickens was concerned with a threat to human civilisation I think we now face the challenge of human material greed posing an existential threat to multiple forms of life across the blue planet.
If all this sounds a bit dark for the festive season, then I’d point you back to Dickens’ original story. We are ALL hypocrites: you, me, Scrooge and Dickens - because we are such complex creatures. But Dickens knew that Christmas provided a momentary pause from the treadmill of daily life, where we all have to shut our eyes to some of the bigger issues solely in order to deal with the myriad challenges of just getting along. It is an opportunity for reflection and a chance to refocus our attention on some of the true wonders of life and of living. A human being, we may recall, is not a single entity but a collaborative agglomeration of billions of individual, differentiated, cells - all working together to facilitate this thing you call ‘me’. The first, and most important principle of any concept of love, is that the self is not the be-all and end-all of existence. It necessitates a recognition of and respect for the inter-connectedness of life. The moot point for today is the growing understanding that this means not just our relations with our partners, or our family, our tribe, our country or even humankind - it means ALL life.
I remain in awe of the vision, the imagination and the sheer skill of Charles Dickens’ creative powers. Like a tribute band playing covers of one of the rock giants I do not expect to stand comparison with the original. But in re-imagining this iconic story I hope to pay homage to the reforming spirit and zeal which infused the original.
So, as my Christmas gift to you this year I present my own vision, a modernised version of Dickens’ own hymn to humanity. While the original was actually published as a single book I will follow the pattern of many of his other works by releasing this in three instalments- the last (all being well) will be available on Christmas Eve. If you have the patience to wait and to read through to the end I hope you will also see that my chosen title is not a Typo!
I hope you enjoy them. I hope you don’t compare them too harshly with the original.
Above all, I wish you and your loved ones (whatever species they may be) a Very Happy Christmas.
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About Pat Foreman
As well as writing tales of Epic Travels I've written two fantasy adventures - The Tales of Rodentia:
- Escape from the Rat King
- The Uncivil War
I spend a lot of my spare time drawing and painting (mostly dogs) and tending to the requirements of my ridiculously large Irish Wolfhound