“The Pot Child” Jane Yolen

From Tales of Wonder  Jane Yolen. Schocken. 1987.  Read on Kindle

This is the first story in this collection and I absolutely loved it. It is the kind of short story and writing that leaves you haunted by it long after you read it.  Years later I can imagine still thinking back, if not on the story specifics, than at least on the feeling that this story left.  I actually put the book away after reading this first story because, despite the fact that the library return date was approaching, I wanted to savor it.

Yolen is someone who has written extensively for both children and adults.  The collection that this story is in is supposedly a collection of her adult fairy tales, some retellings some not.  I have other the years been drawn to some of her work and less interested in picking up others that I have seen.  Her Briar Rose is easily one of the most fascinating and deeply disturbing and, again, haunting versions of the Sleeping Beauty story.  At some point I will have the right mind space to go back and reread it.

For such a short and simple story this packs a lot of punch.  It’s nominally related to the line of stories that bring us Gallatea, Pinocchio, etc.  A potter lacks a child and so paints a masterpiece of one on a pot that is brought to life.  Observers of the pot say the art lacks heart and soul, something that troubles the child as it comes to life.  I won’t reveal the end, but the way this makes you think about what it mean for art to have life is provoking.  And in the end, as Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George tells us you only leave “Children and Art.” Yolen explores for us which is perhaps the more important?


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