Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Mr Scornful
April 4, 2011, 9:29 am
Filed under: Devotional | Tags: , ,

One of the most interesting characters in Enid Blyton’s The Land of Far-Beyond is Mr Scornful, in whom she admitted she could see elements of herself. At the beginning of the story he scoffs at the idea that he could have a burden of sin in his heart.”I am a happy man, rich and powerful… I have no burden.” But, it transpires, his is the biggest of all the travellers. To start with, he thinks the burden may disappear in the night, but next morning he finds he has an even bigger one, because he lost his temper half the night. Yet, as the group sets out, he says, “We must cheer up, for maybe the Land of Far-Beyond is not so far away as we think.”

At the River Trouble he has no sympathy with Mr Fearful, his own brother, but puts out a hand to help Miss Simple, who is prepared to make an effort. Spurning Mr Kindly’s hospitality, he seeks help from Mr Wealthy, but is turned away and loses his way in a tangle of thorns. Yet when Miss Simple is turned back by Doubt, he says angrily that he will go on with the children: “You won’t change my mind.”

At the Guide’s cottage he is warned not to scorn others for stupidity or kindliness, or he will never reach the City of Happiness. He replies “I know what’s what! I know that there isn’t much happiness without money and power.” Yet he takes charge of the children as the only adult left, warning them of dangers to come.

When at last he reaches the City, with only three of the children, the guards ask for the three passwords- which they have been told are Faith, Hope and Love, and so answer correctly. They are then asked which is the greatest. Remembering all the help they have received along the way, the children opt for Love, and are allowed to enter. But Mr Scornful jeers. “Love is silly and soft and no good at all… Love doesn’t get you anywhere.” “Do you need to get anywhere? Said the gatekeeper. Ah, I suppose men like you must get somewhere! Well, tell me- which of the three do you think is the greatest?”

Scornful doesn’t think much of Faith, “but Hope isn’t bad. I’m always hoping something good will turn up.” Wrong! And he is not allowed to pass into the City. But- and this is where I think Blyton is subtle and sensitive- this is not the end. Scornful, with all his faults, has earned the gratitude of the children. “Let him through! He’s come a long way, and gone through all the difficulties with us! It’s his nature to be scornful and jeering. He can’t help it.”

The angel gate-keeper gently says that he cannot break the rules. Scornful has had many chances to learn better. But he tells the children that there is another gateway to the east, over difficult country. Maybe Mr Scornful would like to try there. “If he gets there, he will have learned a few things he still does not know.” The children talk to him through the gate: “Mr Scornful! Don’t give up hope! There’s another gate to the east. Go there and you may perhaps get in there.” At first Mr Scornful is angry and disappointed. “What’s the use? I’m too old to learn.” He intends to go back to the City of Turmoil. Horrified, the children plead with him not to do that, but to try the other gate. They will look out for him in the City of Happiness.

“The children watched Mr Scornful walk away from the gates. He stood on the narrow path, as if wondering which way to go- backwards or forwards. Then, with a wave of his big hand, he turned up the path- to the east.” His idea of hope is very flawed, but it is enough to save him from despair. I, like the children, hope that in his longer journey he will indeed learn the things he needs to know. I think this is the author’s own view. However flawed a human being may be, we should always wish for their salvation, and we should never give up on them as long as there is the least glimmer of hope.

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