Little children love to hear stories from their parents at bedtime. Such stories are mostly fables and have no logic behind them. Many a time, parents make up stories out of their own head. Little children take them as literally true. But as the child grows up, he becomes inquisitive. He begins to ask many questions. He wants to know why and how certain things happen. He wants to know the reason behind things. Sometimes parents take this questioning of the child as an affront. They try to discourage it.
They want the child to accept as true whatever is said to him. Is such an attitude desirable? This story poses this very question. A father tells his child a story out of his head. The child interrupts him a number of times. She raises questions whenever she feels that the story is wrong. The father feels himself caught in an ugly middle position. He does not know whether he should accept the child’s version or stick to his own. Thus the story raises a moral issue and leaves it to the reader to resolve it.
The story raises a moral issue if the parents should always decide what the children should do or let the children do what they like to do. Children dream and live in their own magical world. They are devoid of despise, ugliness, and petty differences. They are pure at heart. This story raises a moral question at this point, “Should Wizard hit Mommy?” Jo feels that he must. Jack says that it would be wrong because a mommy is always right. She should be loved and respected.
- Joanne: a four year old girl, lovingly called as ‘Jo’.
- Jack: Father of Joanne
- Clare: Wife of Jack, mother of Joanne.
- Skunk: a baby creature with a bad smell.
- Mother Skunk: Mother of baby Skunk.
- Owl: a wise creature that solves the problems.
- Wizard: A magician.
Jack was the father of two little kids – Jo and Bobby. His wife Clare was carrying their third child. Jack would tell a story to his daughter Jo out of his head in the evenings and for Saturday naps. This custom of story-telling began when Jo was two–year-old and it was continuing for the last two years. Each new story only differed a bit from the basic tale. There always was a small creature, usually named Roger, for example, Roger Fish, Roger Squirrel, Roger Chipmunk etc. He always had some problem and he would go to the wise old owl. The owl would tell him to go to the Wizard, who would perform a magic spell that solved the problem. The Wizard in turn would demand in payment a number of pennies greater than the number Roger creature had. But at the same time he would direct the animal to a place where the extra pennies could be found. Then Roger would become so happy that he played many games with other creatures. Roger then would go home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston. Jack then would describe their supper, and the story was over.
Jack found this story-telling session especially tiring on Saturday, because Jo never fell asleep in naps any more. One Saturday Jack asked Jo about whom the story should be today. Roger Skunk, she said firmly. A new animal; they must talk about Skunk at nursery school. Jack started the story of the tiny creature Skunk, who lived in the dark deep woods. His name was Roger Skunk and he smelled very bad. He smelled so bad that other animals of the jungle would not play with him. They would run away and Roger Skunk would stand there all alone.
Roger Skunk went to the wise old owl and told his problem. The owl asked the Skunk why he did not see the Wizard. Then he went to the Wizard and told that he smelled very bad and all the little animals used to run away from him. The wise owl had told wizard that he could help in that manner. The Wizard took his magic wand and asked Roger Skunk what he wanted to smell like. Roger Skunk told him that he would like to smell like roses. The Wizard chanted and Roger Skunk started smelling like roses. The Wizard asked Roger Skunk to pay seven pennies. Roger Skunk said that he had four pennies only and he began to cry. The Wizard directed Roger to go to the nearby magic well and he would find three pennies there. Roger Skunk took out three pennies from the well and gave them to the Wizard. Now all the other animals gathered around him because he smelled so good. They played various games and laughed. It began to get dark so they all ran home to their mummies. Jo thought that the story was all over.
When Roger Skunk went home his mummy said that the smell was awful. She asked who made him smell like that. Roger Skunk said that the Wizard did so. She said that they were going right back to that Wizard. He said that all the other animals would run away with his bad smell. But his mummy said she did not care. He should smell the way a little Skunk should have smelled. So she took Roger with her and went to the Wizard. When the wizard opened door, she hit him with her umbrella and explained how the wizard’s magic infuriated her. The wizard spelled another magic and Roger smelled as foul as he did earlier. But she was displeased with this new ending and wanted her father to make the wizard hit Roger’s mommy. But Jack was not ready to make any change as he thought Joe should accept him without questioning. Jo protested but Jack said that it was daddy’s story. He said then Roger Skunk and her mummy went home. They had supper and when Roger Skunk was in bed, Mommy Skunk came up and hugged him and said she loved him very much. He told her that the story ends there.
Jo asked her daddy if the other animals ran away from Roger Skunk. Jack said no, they finally got used to the way Roger Skunk was and did not mind it at all. Jo commented that she was a stupid mummy. He asked her to have a long nap as her brother Bobby was also sleeping. Jo told him that she wanted him to tell her the story the next day that Wizard took that magic wand and hit that mummy, right over the head. Jack said that it was not the story. The point is that the little Skunk loved his mummy more than he loved all the other little animals. Moreover, she knew what was right. But Jo insisted that tomorrow he should say that the Wizard hit that mummy. Jack said that he would see and asked her to sleep.
He closed the door and went downstairs. Clare was striking the chair rail with a dipped brush. Above him footsteps vibrated. These were Jo’s footsteps. He threatened to beat her and then the footsteps slowed down. Clare observed that it was a long story. He simply said “the poor kid”. He watched his wife working hard on the wood-work. She was doing painting work. Thus the writer displays adult authority on one hand and the child’s inquisitiveness on the other.
Gist of the Lesson
- The chapter captures a very sensitive reaction of a small girl to an important aspect of the story that her father narrates to her.
- The story reveals the worldview of a little child to a difficult moral question that shows her mental or psychological richness.
- Jo is a little girl of four years. She is engaged in a story session with her father.
- Jack, the father used to tell her a story every evening and especially for Saturday naps jo feels herself involved with the characters and the happenings.
- The story always had an animal with a problem. The old owl advises him to visit the wizard who would solve the problem.
- Skunk’s problem- he smelt bad, visited the wizard who changed it to the smell of roses.
- Skunk’s mother was unhappy with it and took him back to the wizard. She hit the wizard and asked him to restore the original smell. She wanted her son to keep his identity of a skunk and wanted his friends to accept him for himself. So the wizard changes him back to smell like a skunk.
- After hearing the story of Roger Skunk Jo was not happy with the ending.
- She wants her father to change the ending. She wants the wizard to hit the mother back and let Roger be which her father was not ready to do to establish his authority. This raises a difficult moral question whether parents possess the right to impose their will on their children.
- Her father finds it difficult to answer her question.