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The image of a child hero or “trickster” is seen
in many cultures. This kind of role can tell a lot about how a culture
acts and reacts to things. The idea of the child hero in stories
written and told before the birth of Christ probably reflect the
peoples beliefs that the child is the future, and therefore carries
some sort of power or gift. For stories that were written after the
birth of Christ, the child could reflect the idea stated above, or it
could also be the peoples belief in an infant savior, that a child will
make everything right again.
Whether the story comes from before Christ or after,
the one uniform aspect about these stories is that they are present
in every culture, all around the world. The image of the “trickster”
is also very prevalent in the different cultures. It is seen in many
different fables and moral-based stories.
“You cannot go against the Philistine, you are but a
youth, and he has long been a man of war”(Metzger 145). This is
what King Saul of Israel said to David when he proposed that he
fight the Philistine warrior Goliath. The story of David and Goliath
is quite possibly one of the oldest child hero stories. It was part of
the Bible, in the Old Testament. In this story a young man named
David proposes to the king of Israel that he fight and attempt to kill
Goliath, the giant that had been plaguing Israel. The king agrees,
however hesitantly, and David goes on to slay the beast using just a
slingshot. While this story is not one that was made up, it still
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shows us that the ancient Hebrews believed in the fact that a child,
or in this case teen, has the will and motivation to do the
impossible.
Staying on the eastern side of the world, we will next
see examples of Russian stories. In the former Soviet Union, a lot of
the time stories, books and other types of art were hard to come by.
“In a broader sense, though, recent years have witnessed genuine
cultural enrichment, as Gorbachevs glasnost policy permitted the
works of previously forbidden writers, artists, and
cinematographers to become accessible”(Grolier Multimedia). After
the public was able to get at the mass of stories that had been kept
from them, there was even more of an increase of books and other
forms of art. The Russian people now had much more of an
incentive to write. “In a certain village, not near, not far, not high,
not low, there lived an old couple with one little son named
Ivashko”(Wyndham 32). This is the line that begins the story of
Ivashko and the Witch. This story takes place in a small village in
Russia, and the main character is a small boy named Ivashko.
Ivashko was a very independent boy who wanted to go of on his
own and go fishing. He begged and pleaded with his parents, and
finally they gave in. His father built him a canoe and off he went.
Ivashko was doing well while he was fishing, but and one point was
lured to shore by an evil witch. The witch grabbed him and took
him to her house deep in the woods. She showed him to her
daughter and they decided that they would eat him.
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At this point the witch left to get some of her friends. Ivashko seized
this opportunity, and when the witches daughter went to sit down
on a shovel in order to demonstrate to Ivashko how to do it, he
through her into the fire. He then left and ran up a tree. The witch
found him and started gnawing at the tree. Luckily for Ivashko, a
flock of geese was flying overhead and one flew down to sweep him
up. Just as he left the tree fell over on the witch and all her evil
friends, crushing them. Ivashko lived happily ever after. This shows
that in the Russian culture there is a presence of the child hero, and
even shows the image of the trickster in the way Ivashko tricked the
witchs’ daughter into showing him how to sit on a shovel. Ivashko is
a hero in this story not only because he killed the witch, but
because he rid the lake and the woods of the evil that kept most
people from going there. Although this isn’t one of the newly
released works in Russia, I think that the children’s stories,
sometimes