H. H. Munro (Saki), courtesy of Wikipedia
We finished up my creative writing class by focusing on short stories. Yesterday we read and analyzed Saki's short story entitled The Storyteller. I found it so intriguing, that I thought I'd post my thoughts and analysis.
The Storyteller is about some rambunctious children riding in a carriage with their aunt and a greatly annoyed bachelor. The aunt attempts to charm the children (and relieve the bachelor's annoyance) by telling the children a story about a good little girl who is rescued from a mad bull because of her goodness. The children despise the story. The bachelor then tells a story about a good little girl (so good she's "horribly good") that gets devoured by wolf. The children love it while the aunt is aghast. (read the whole story here)
Saki’s Storyteller ought to make you feel a bit uncomfortable. He is in a very real way making fun of your average, everyday children’s story. Your standard children’s story usually teaches a moral that is supposed to persuade you to be a good little boy or girl. But Saki, in essence, says such stories are dumb. His point is that, in the end, good kids die—sometimes even violently. That would be the first theme. The second (and perhaps main) theme is that there’s no such thing as a “good little boy or girl.” Kids are evil and like stories that have violence and evil in them. The stranger walks away at the end quite satisfied because he knows the kids will be pestering their aunt for an "improper" story for a long time to come.
In sum, Saki says, all are damned.
The story is rather depressing because it looks at man’s real nature as a sinner and the consequences of trying to live a good, moral life: “You are evil and even the best of us still die.” What's more is that its grim tone is intensified because it offers no salvation.
This is where the gospel brings good news. Man, in and of himself can do nothing to change his nature or escape death. Yet Christ died to take the curse of death away and he now sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who turn to him in faith and repentance to change their wicked nature.
Saki's story is wonderful in that it gets at the real essence of the unbelieving life, and does not leave any fairy tail wish-fullness bouncing around in our heads. Unfortunately, due to his worldview, Saki's story depresses. It is sure to entertain, but without the understanding of Biblical salvation, you are left glorying in the grave and the evil that leads to it.
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