Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Gammage Cup

The Gammage Cup

Carol Kendall

Date: 1959   —   $5.40   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy, Juvenile

This is a tale of individuality, of keeping true to yourself in the face of provocation, of stultifying regulations and enforced conformity, and of misfits who save the community.

It's also a children's book.

The Gammage Cup tells the story of five Minnipins who rebel in the face of not-so-subtle pressure to be like everyone else in their village of Slipper-On-the-Water, especially since the village thinks that conformity is the key to winning the prize of the Cup of Wisdom, property of the great leader Gammage. When the five are thrown out, they go up to the mountains and discover that the whole valley is in danger from an outside force, which they have to prevent in the face of disbelief and fear of being different.

It's interesting how many subtle messages Kendall managed to work into the text. When the issue of color comes up— "true" Minnipins dress in brown with green cloaks— one character makes the statement that brown fits him, but he has to stand with the misfits because he'd hate it if someone wanted to force him to wear yellow. Walter the Earl— not a title but a name— makes comments regarding slavish devotion to a popularly accepted view of history, and points out that fighting against facts is not a good idea.

This book is, indeed, a product of its time, as several writers in the late fifties and early sixties worried about enforced conformity. (A Wrinkle in Time, for example, was published in 1962.) The message of "Be true to yourself" would, of course, be taken to the other extreme in a decade or so (at least on the surface.)

And hey! There's a sequel? I'm going to have to track that down...

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