LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Lamb as a Teaching Tool

on April 2, 2013 4:21pm

In Five Children and It by E. Nesbit the character that most interested me was the Lamb and his use as a character to teach morals to the other children. Lamb was the victim of a few of the children’s wishes but was also used to transform the other four siblings internally by the end of the tale.

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Lamb was the subject of a wish gone wrong when the children wished someone else wanted the child. That wish turned into everyone wanting the child and the children had to fight off kidnappers to protect their younger brother. I believe this was the first lesson used to teach the children the importance of family, and the need to protect family no matter what.

Lamb and his rapid transformation into adulthood was the second wish made that could have potentially hurt Lamb. What was puzzling to me about his transformation was his rude character and demeanor. His adult self seemed very contrasted from his siblings. When he first shifted I was under the impression he would simply become the version of himself he was meant to grow into, but judging by those who surrounded him it is my belief that this reflected a Lamb made by magic and not what he could have potentially been.

I think this wish was used to teach the children the dangers of growing up too quickly. The children attempted to take control of their own lives by wishing everything they wanted. Controlling one’s future is an adult responsibility, and I think the negative consequences that came after each wish were meant to teach the children to be patient and not rush out of childhood.

I think Lamb as a character served to teach the four children a lessen more so than just to be one of the children. His infant age from the very beginning makes him unique amongst the five. He has this sense of innocence not only because he is so young but also because he himself is the only one who does not make any wishes. He is affected by the wishes of his siblings and even when he is transformed into an adult he does not ask anything of the Psaammead. One of the reasons his absence of wishing preserves his innocence because he is not the direct cause of any of the negative consequences. He is not responsible for the unfortunate side effects of the wishes. The other siblings were forced to lose a piece of their childhood in order to resolve some of these issues they created by lying or being deceitful. This creates a greater divide between the innocence of Lamb and the others.

ImageThe only slight loss of innocence experienced by Lamb is when he transforms into an adult, Hilary or St Maur, for a day. During this time, Land is rude and even attempts to go off with a woman. However, even in this situation Lamb was not responsible for his own mistakes. In my opinion, the adult he turned into is not reflective of the adult he would have grown up to be. I believe this is so because of my earlier distinction of how different his character was from the other children. It is likely that he would have grown up similar to the others instead of the character he temporarily portrayed. My belief is that by turning back into a child he will have a second chance to maintain his childhood and grow into a child then adult more similar to the others. In this situation, Lamb will serve as a tool to teach the other children as well as himself.

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