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A Comparative Analysis Of Lloyd Alexander's The Book Of Three And Katherine Paterson's Bridge To Terabithia

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Over time, authors are known to update the setting of their books to relate to the setting of the time period they are publishing their book. The historical fantasy, “The Book of Three” by Lloyd Alexander was published in the early 1900s and when relating it to “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson which was published in the beginning of the 20th century, it is easy for me to notice the updates in regards to the time periods. The difference in the setting and transportation are two examples of how “Bridge to Terabithia” is more up to date than “The Book of Three.”

Living in the land of Prydain, Taran is bored with life because there is nothing exciting going on and the only other person he has on his farm is Coll. He does not do anything more than meditate all day while he is on the farm. Once he begins to take care of the pig, Hen Wen, he is known as the Assistant Pig-Keeper and is a bit occupied. But, Hen Wen gets upset and escapes so he is left with nothing to do all over again. I understand that Taran wants to leave his home town, Caer Dallben because he wants to enjoy his life. I would not be able to live on a farm with nothing to do my entire life. In the early 19th century, there was not much to do if you lived on a farm but, care for the animals. If there were not any animals to care for then, there was not much to do. One of Taran’s biggest interests is sword fighting just like his idol, Prince Gwydion. “Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes” (Alexander 796). Taran did insist on making a sword but, Coll refused to agree with him. Although they made horseshoes, Taran was not satisfied because that is not what he wanted to do. If Taran at least had Hen Wen with him, he would have had something entertaining to do but, she escaped. On the other hand, in the book “Bridge to Terabithia,” Jesse and Leslie are living in a town where they were able to do more than just meditate or take care of a pig.

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It was a blessing when Leslie moved into the house right across from Jess’. Both Jesse and Leslie lived with their families. Similar to Taran, Jesse took care of their cow, Miss Bessie. He assured that he milked the cow twice a day. He was milking the cow when he noticed a U-Haul near the Perkin’s place. He and Leslie made eye contact for the first time. “Jess didn’t see Leslie Burke again except from a distance until the first day of school, the following Tuesday, when Mr. Turner brought her down to Mrs. Myers’ fifth-grade class at Lark Creek Elementary” (Paterson 30). Their relationship began when they realized they were in the same class and took bus rides home from school together. They got on and off the bus at the same time. I loved the relationship they turned out to have after all. They went from making eye contact from each other’s house, to becoming best friends. They named themselves the king and queen of Terabithia, their magical kingdom. Unlike the land of Prydain, they actually went down the hill from their house to create this world. In their world, they felt much happier and comfortable with each other. Jesse was the only one who was friends with Leslie in school and he was not ashamed. It was hard for Leslie to fit in when she moved there but, she and Jesse grew such a special bond that took her thoughts off being friends with anyone else. When Leslie died, he could not cope with it. He thought it was a nightmare; it was so hard for Jesse.

Not only was the settings different in both “The Book of Three” and “Bridge to Terabithia” but, so was the form of transportation. As Taran and his friends are traveling through the woods on their journey to Caer Dathyl, Taran had his horse, Melyngar. He did not have access to any other form of transportation. Taran planned to take Melyngar all the way to Caer Dathyl with him and he did. He had the responsibility of taking care of Melyngar throughout his entire journey. I believe that he needed her to complete his journey because she helped carry all the food and even carry him and his friends. When Gurgi hurt his leg while they were traveling through the woods, he just wanted his head chopped off because he did not think he would be able to travel any further with the conditions he was in. “No,’ said Taran. “You won’t be left in the woods, and you won’t have your head chopped off – by me or anyone else.” For a moment Taran almost regretted his words. The poor creature was right, he knew. The injury would slow their pace. “You and Eilonwy can ride Melyngar,” Taran said, lifting Gurgi to his feet and putting one of the creature’s hairy arms about his shoulder. “Come on, now. One step at a time . . .” (Alexander 838). Melyngar carried both Gurgi when he was hurt and Eilonwy when she was tired. They both had to get on Melyngars back in order for them to continue through the woods. If they did not have Melyngar with them, they would have had to leave Gurgi behind when he hurt his leg.

When Jesse spent the day with Miss Edmunds, he had such a great time. Unlike in “The Book of Three,” they traveled in a car to their destination. Jess’ dad also had a truck that he traveled to work and back in. “As soon as he saw her car turn in, Jess raced out the kitchen door through the rain and met her halfway up the drive” (Paterson 114). It was Jess’ first time traveling to Washington and he had lots of fun at the art gallery. Everyone in the area used cars and trucks for transportation. They did not use horses anymore. In the historical fantasy, “The Book of Three,” Taran used his horse but, of course it took him much longer to get from point A to point B. For example, when they were on their journey to Caer Dathyl, it took them days because they used their two feet and a horse. It was impossible for them to make it their any quicker. When Jesse went with Miss Edmunds on their road trip, they went to Washington in the morning, visited the art gallery, and were able to return home later in the day. Before Jess’ father got laid off, he went to work and back with his truck. Leslie parents also had their own car because that is what they used for their transportation.

At the completion of both, “The Book of Three” and “Bridge to Terabithia,” I envisioned the settings to be completely different. Alexander who wrote his book in the early 1900’s had more of a historical setting because his book was drawn from ancient tales. His characters used horse as their transportation. On the other hand, Paterson who wrote her story in the 20th century had her characters uses cars and trucks as their way of getting around. Alexander also wrote his book using a setting where his character’s lived on a farm and he did not mention any family. It seems to me that Taran was sort of living in a town in the middle of nowhere. Paterson used a setting where I envisioned it to be closer to how we live today. Jesse and Leslie both lived in a house across from each other with the road being walking distance. “The Book of Three” was much more historical than “Bridge to Terabithia.” The setting and the use of transportation were two ways to prove that “The Book of Three” was an historical fantasy.

“A safe place is not less desirable in the twentieth century than it was in the nineteenth, perhaps for some of the same reasons—the seeming takeover of electronic gadgetry, cultural and social upheaval, and mass migrations” (Misheff 131). The article that I found in my defense states that “Bridge to Terabithia” takes place in the country setting. Paterson chose a setting that would seem safe for a children’s book. It is difficult to find a place in which disaster does not seem imminent. But, it is not only important to pick a safe place for the child reading a book. It is also important to pick a safe place for the characters. In “The Book of Three,” the setting is much different from “Bridge to Terabithia” because being on a farm alone like Taran is not safe but, Jesse living in a house with his family and across from neighbors is safe for a child. Safety in children’s literature began to matter as time went on.

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