LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Water-Babies To Be Read By Children? Come On Now…

Let us be real. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies may have centered on the entertaining of a child’s imagination, but within this literature there are numerous points to be made, prejudices, opinionated societal viewpoints, and many other subliminal messages (among very obvious messages) that the average child would not even begin to understand or even have the competence to know whereof to begin–yet alone the average adult.  Many of these messages are signaled to ethnic groups such as blacks or Irish, or “professionals” in the areas of education and medication. Such can be seen when Kingsley satirizes the doctors of his day in response to Professor Ptthmllnsprts’s sudden mental illness, “So all the doctors in the county were called in to make a report on his case; and of course every one of them flatly contradicted the other: else what use is there in being men of science? But at last the majority agreed on a report in the true medical language, one half bad Latin, the other half worse Greek, and the rest what might have been English, if they had only learnt to write it.” Here he shows the clumsiness of “men in science” and how they are always out to disprove one another in argument, using their ridiculous and complicated medical language, in which he further satirizes by presenting the reader with a sophisticated fabrication of long jumbled words to describe the professor’s illness–satirizing onwards by having My (His) Lady react in a shocking manner in response to the sophisticated medical vocabulary, then having Sir John “write to the TIMES to command the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the time being to put a tax on long words.” But it didn’t end there, for Kingsley went on to list all of the “stupid” and endless “remedies” that could have been used by doctors in hopes to cure the Professor’s illness; of course, none of the cures accomplishing the slightest of anything, which is of course one of Kingsley’s arguments. Eventually, the only successful cure became none other than writing–where the Professor begins writing about the moon being made of green cheese and birthing babies.

green cheese moon

Although I found many parts of Kingsley’s rant-like rambling (aforementioned above) quite entertaining and comical, it still yet seems to be no commonplace for Children’s Literature. Sure, the images of a nonsensical medical diagnosis with extensive vocabulary, an assortment of absurd remedies for treatment of the professor’s absurd condition, and a moon made of green cheese with millions of crawling babies all does seem quite normal for a children’s story and the entertaining of a child’s imagination; but, the path towards each image is, at times, unclear and too astray for a child to understand–yet alone an adult. The reader comes upon the scene of Tom (as a water-baby) being seen, clear as day, by the skeptical professor and the faithful Ellie, and thus a fairy manipulating the professor’s mind as to not reveal speculation of the water babies’ existence. With these images being quite clear to any reader, Kingsley persists with one of his “moments”, as I call them, where he elaborates on some social characteristic or, as in this case, a satirical allegory. Now, a child reading this will most certainly enjoy the images that are presented thereof; yet still may be so far off topic as to where the reader forgets how things even led up to, persay, a scientific explanation as to why babies could not exist on the moon, ” …It cannot be cold enough there about four o’clock in the morning to condense the babies’ mesenteric apophthegms into their left ventricles; and, therefore, they can never catch the hooping-cough; and if they do not have hooping-cough, they cannot be babies at all; and, therefore, there are no babies in the moon.”

…I rest my case.

Anyhow, another segment of the story that evermore convinces me that The Water-Babies isn’t designated towards an audience befitting children is another one of Kingsley’s “moments” of stray thoughts heading closer and closer into oncoming traffic (as I like to relate it). Here, Kingsley engages the reader upon the idea of the Water-babies. He neither tries to approve or disprove of them; though, he surely tries to legitimize the idea, but still reminds the reader of such superstitions that do arise in any and all fairy tales, “Don’t you know that this is a fairy tale, and all fun and pretence; and that you are not to believe one word of it, even if it is true?” But his argument is that, even though told as a fairy tale, water-babies may still thrive and dwell upon our world; nobody can readily discount the possibility of water-babies existing in all actuality. His reasons for so, I believe, are not all completely fit for being read by children, as they would be lucky to understand even half of his argument–which persists for an incredible ten paragraphs or so. First, he goes on about well-known professors and how, however much they know of nature, cannot disprove something that has not yet been seen or discovered (and he certainly emphasizes the word ‘cannot’, and how vile it is to make such a judgment): “And therefore it is, that there are dozens and hundreds of things in the world which we should certainly have said were contrary to nature, if we did not see them going on under our eyes all day long.”


He continues to go on about how little seeds can grow to big trees, how an elephant at first discovery would go against previous  conceptions of “comparative anatomy”, how “flying dragons” were thought to only be myth and legend until skeletal remains of pterodactyls began appearing in dig sites, and how almost all that lives and dwells on land has a similar or almost exact comparison in water or in ocean. Then, he goes on about transformations found in nature such that as the butterfly, and how a human could, in all possibility, submit to the same transformations–such that as a land-baby’s metamorphosis into a water-baby.

All in all, I feel that Kingsley goes into too much depth when writing The Water-Babies. In contrast, the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales would have only spent at most two lines on the legitimacy of such a creature, as to make quick sense to a child and thus commit more time and detail to the actual story and its plot. Nevertheless, I find The Water-Babies to be a fantastic story and a unique glimpse back into historical perceptions, values, and descriptions of the natural world. Although I wouldn’t recommend this story to be read by “land-babies”, I highly encourage young and old adults alike to read this story–so long as they’re willing to succumb to such scattered thoughts and impressive imaginings as Kingsley’s.

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Grrr(l) Power: Becoming the Animal in “The Tiger’s Bride”


At the mention of “The Tiger’s Bride” by Angela Carter last Tuesday, our class let out a groan. On our first reading, it seems that we all missed whatever Carter was trying to communicate in this modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast. However, upon a closer inspection of the tale, especially the last passage of the Beauty character’s transformation between pages 64 and 66, the tale resembles the common tale type more closely than we realized.
The narrator’s wish for independence from her sleazy father is an easily understood motivation for remaining in the castle. In a fairly symbolically simple phrase, the narrator comments that she will “wind up” her robotic maidservant and “send her back to perform the part of my father’s daughter” (64). The narrator then proceeds to strip naked, preparing to acquiesce to the Beast’s request.
The Beast’s desire to see her naked rather than a proposal of marriage seems too sexually forward for this usually repressed tale. It is especially disturbing considering the Beast lacks any human features, even relying on a servant to speak for him. However, the narrator speaks of undressing like the shedding of her humanity, rather than preparation for any sexual encounter. It is “not natural for humankind to go naked,” as she comments (64). She feels pain as she undresses, as if she was “stripping off [her] own underpelt” (64). Already speaking in animal’s terms, she has begun her transformation.
She clothes herself in the robe made of rats as she makes her way to the Beast to fend off the “lacerating winds” in the corridors, rather than for modesty’s sake. The robe itself is made of animals, allowing the narrator to protect herself without interrupting her desire to be truly naked. She also wears the earrings made of the Beast’s tears, finally accepting his gifts.
As the Beast begins to lick her “skin off,” his purring shakes the “foundations of the house” (66). Civilization seems to be crumbling around her as she completes her transformation into animal. Finally, the diamond earrings turn back into teardrops. The magical transformation of his tears to diamonds, then given as jewelry, seems to be the Beast’s attempt to bridge the divide between their species, transforming his gifts into gifts appropriate for a human. The transformation of the earrings back into tears shows that the narrator has completed her passage into the realm of the animal.
The Beast’s desire to see her naked can now read much closer to a marriage proposal. By asking her to remove her clothes, he was symbolically asking her to relinquish her humanity so that she could transform into a Beast, and thus become his animal bride. Rather than become human together, the narrator chooses to leave her unhappy life as a human with her father and “shed all the skins of a life in the world” (66).

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After reading the essay on canonization I was prompted to consider whether or not I would place/want to include The Water Babies into the canon. For me it was not whether or not the book is lacking interest, it has more to do with the content within the book.  The Water Babies promotes gender roles, racism, and social hierarchy.  These are outdated concepts that should not be continually given to children.

There are some very good lessons to be obtained by a child reading The Water Babies, such as “do not be lazy because your life will not turn out the way you may have hoped” and “treat others the way you want to be treated” are two very good lessons within this story.  However, racism is incredibly prevalent within the novel.  The chimney sweep Tom is called a “dirty black boy” while he is still working for Grimes.  This is a time when Tom is still dumb and has not learned the lessons, which will make him a more productive citizen.


Even today we still hear the instructions, “boys will be boys” and “act like a lady.”  These phrases give allowances to boys for things such as being dirty, making a mess, fighting with other boys, and being loud and crazy.  However, oftentimes if a young girl were to do any of the above-mentioned actions she would be told to “act like a lady.”  As much as people like to think that things are equal and we do not apply the pressures of gender roles upon children still, this is not the case.  We are still priming boys to be tough and for girls to be quiet, submissive housewives.  This is seen in The Water Babies in several instances.  Ellie is a clean, quiet, young lady who is given a task to proof herself by teaching Tom.  Whilst, Tom is given the task of traveling all the way to the other end of nowhere where he encounters quite a few dangerous obstacles.  The gender roles being reinforced within the story could cause the children reading this book to fit themselves into these gender roles instead of following their own personality.

images            images-1

The social classes are highlighted through the caste system Kingsley creates within the animals that Tom encounters.  Some examples of a social hierarchy can be seen first with the salmon.  Within different kinds of fish that we see the salmon are the kings of the fish and that trout are a species of fish that a salmon could be killed for if they decided to intermingle.  Also, the otter mother has a higher position since she will only eat food she deems worthy of her.  This promotes the idea of social classes to young children ,which causes difficulties with allowing children to be seen as worthy.

Perhaps, The Water Babies has a few good morals that young children can benefit from getting but it could also be at the cost of equality and self expression. The story is outdated, with references to things that children nowadays would not understand and with too many injustices against peoples other that the standard “white, British male.”   Therefore, it may be a good thing that The Water Babies is a story that is becoming forgotten.

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The Water Babies: Out of the Sentimental Canon and Off of the Bookshelves

Charles Kingsley’s book, The Water Babies, is one of many books that, although popular at one point in time, has since declined in popularity and readership.  In her article, “Sentiment and Significance: The Impossibility of Recovery in the Children’s Literature Canon or, The Drowning of the Water Babies,” Deborah Stevenson asserts that although “academics note the text’s historical significance…Kingsley’s book no longer has a place in the sentimental canon; the chain of affection has been broken” (Stevenson 11).  Her distinction here between the sentimental and the academic canon is significant in the discussion of whether or not this book is appropriate for children today.

As we have discussed in class, scholars of children’s literature are uncomfortably aware that they are studying a genre of literature for which they are not the intended audience, and that the true intended audience (children) has no real input in the denoting of texts as part of the academic canon.  Those decisions are made by people such as librarians and teachers, who have pedagogical and didactic ends in mind.  Stevenson’s exclusion of The Water Babies from the academic canon would have implied that the powers that be (the librarians, teachers, and scholars) did not consider the text to be worthy of today’s children.  However, Stevenson specifically qualifies that The Water Babies has been excluded from the sentimental canon, and this exclusion carries with it another meaning entirely.


The sentimental canon is less isolated from the reactions of actual children to specific works of literature.  For example, perhaps children in the early 20th century read Kingsley’s The Water Babies and took delight in Tom’s adventures in the sea and wished that they too could be cuddled by Mrs. Bedoneasyouwouldbedoneby and corrected by Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.  And then, assume that as adults, they attempted to pass on this hodge-podge of morals and nonsense to their own children.  This method no doubt worked for some, but there comes a point when a book of days gone by is no longer relevant to the current generation’s children, and, with each subsequent generation, the possibility of a book once again achieving status as beloved becomes less and less likely.

One of the primary reasons that The Water Babies would not be considered appropriate or worthwhile reading for children today is the inclusion of so many cultural references.  Back when the book was published, children would have known who Kingsley was referencing in his long tangents.  Today’s children would be utterly confused by the references to public figures of Kingsley’s day.  The inclusion of these references has in some ways done Kingsley a disservice, as it clearly dates his work.

Another reason that children today would be likely to turn up their noses at The Water Babies is its obvious moral overtones.  At the time of its publication, it would not have seemed overly moralistic or didactic at all since, prior to its publication, all that existed in the children’s literature market was entirely didactic.  But just because it was a breath of fresh air for children at the time, does not mean that the air hasn’t gone stale since.   Today’s children would be turned off by Kingsley’s clear interjections into the story and the obvious teaching moments found throughout the book.  Instead, today’s children want narratives that are fun and entertaining, and if the adults can manage to get a lesson in there without them noticing it, then all the better.

Because children who once loved this book grew into adults who were incapable of passing on the love of this book to subsequent generations (due to factors such as changing tastes and dated references), Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies is no longer a staple on any child’s bookshelf.

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Why I Do Not Consider The Water-Babies a Work of Children’s Literature


It is well-documented that Charles Kingsley wrote The Water-Babies for his youngest son in 1863. While one of his goals was to instill a moral theme, the Golden Rule, for his child to abide by, I, for one, do not think that children should be the intended audience for this text. I feel this way because the text is rife with contradictions and assumptions. The majority of children are unable to garner the true meaning of this text by simply reading the words.

Contradiction seems to be the most observable theme of this text. While it causes chaos from the reader’s end, it is only stabilized by the very neutrality of Tom’s character. There are contradictions of evolution versus Christianity, and influences of good and evil, all of which are complete oppositions. The contradictions presented are more subtextual than overt. For example, the whole world of “water-babies” can be interpreted as a metaphor for an afterlife, yet within the afterlife, the creatures are subjects to evolution. I, for one, do not believe religion and science can coexist because they challenge each other.   Also, Mr. Grimes, Tom’s master, is a malicious figure who seems to indoctrinate Tom with a sense of “evil is right”. However, while Tom’s mind is still malleable, he encounters the Irishwoman, an amalgamation of different characters in one, who represents themes of goodness and purity. These ‘lessons’ are subjected to Tom, who is a perfect example of a tabula rasa, a blank slate, because his unique upbringing caused him to be a perfectly unadulterated figure.


Kingsley takes a very unusual and questionable position in this text. He assumes that the reader is ‘untouched’ and liberated from ‘commitment’.  That’s very rare to find at his time period, because most children are indoctrinated, in a sense,  to be committed to some ideology, mostly Christianity.  For example, as he narrates the story, he speculates about mere existence. He mentions that anything conceivable that is not visible or tangible, cannot be dismissed or that it cannot be contrary to Nature.  Judging solely off this, it seems as if this text was perfectly written for an Agnostic, which practically a very infinitesimal amount of children are aware of that word or the meaning of it. While I strongly agree that children are very efficient at questioning, they are incapable of deep introspection and contemplation of lifelong questions.


It is because of Kingsley’s wide use of contradiction and assumption, that this text cannot be classified as children’s literature.  While I appreciate the equal level of deliverance of Christianity versus evolution, I feel that both are subjects that are more appropriate for a certain maturity for appropriate contemplation and evaluation. This text seems very thought-provoking for an adolescent or adult because of the grander meaning of the text instead of what is physically written. That is why I feel this text is best classified under speculative fiction, because of its combinatorial essence of scientific elements and supernatural aspects.



The Water Babies: A Guidebook for the Growing Gentleman

In The Water Babies, Charles Kingsley writes to children, particularly boys, about the story of Tom and his decisions in life that ultimately cause him to become a well-rounded and good adult. Kingsley instructs children through the utilization of many small lessons, which can be found throughout the book. For each encounter that Tom faces, there is a simple lesson to be learned for young boys.

In analyzing The Water Babies as a teaching tool, it is important to note that Kingsley wrote this story for a particular age group in the early 1860’s. Featured in Macmillan’s Magazine, this children’s story was an educational piece directed to Kingsley’s main audience: children. However, it is obvious that young girls are not included in this audience because Tom is a boy and his adventures are similar to situations that young British boys would likely encounter.

As for the actual lessons, Kingsley cleverly puts them in the text through Tom’s encounters with people and animals. For example, one of the first morals in the story involves religious salvation. The Irishwoman teaches Tom that those who wish to be clean will be. In this case, Kingsley is writing about the necessity of young boys to have the right heart that seeks to be spiritually clean. The feeling of wanting to be clean will enable them to reach salvation, just as it did Tom, who then left his fleshly body behind and became a water baby.

Another notable lesson is where Tom saves his lobster friend from a trap. This unselfish act of kindness is the trigger that allows Tom to see the other water-babies because it is necessary for Tom to have the right attitude. The lesson for young men is to do good to others in order to be a proper gentleman.

Tom helping the lobster out of a trap.

A third lesson to be noted is when Tom must help Grimes, his mortal enemy, in order to become a human man again. The moral is simple because Kingsley is admonishing young men to help all people and have the right attitude to them, regardless of who they are and how many flaws they may have. Only when Tom realizes this can he have the chance as a totally grown and mature man.

Therefore, the obvious audience for this story when it was written was young British boys. However, since it’s creation in 1863, both the adults and children have changed drastically. Now, parents are not likely reading The Water Babies to their young children. Instead, the audience of this piece of children’s literature is for academic scholars, including university students. It appears that The Water Babies is important to analyze because of the many themes associated with it. Also, Kingsley was one of the very first authors to come up with this particular type of literature and much can be gleaned from studying his writing methods. Thus, the audience of The Water Babies changes as time moves on.

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“Snow White” and the Not-So-Antiquated Notions of Femininity and Sex

Many fairy tales portray two women at odds with each other: a virtuous, innocent young woman being victimized by a cunning, ambitious older woman. We are meant to root against the older woman who can think for herself and the naive (usually blonde) young woman wins every time. This is especially evident in The Grimm’s “Snow White,” where a dark, evil witch attempts to kill the pure, young girl so that the witch will once again be the fairest woman in all the lands.

When we read fairy tales, we write off these disturbing notions of ideal femininity (innocence and virtue over ambition or wit) because of the social norms of the time that they were written, but Disney is still creating movies with these two dichotomous feminine roles and women who are eternally childlike, obedient and one-dimensional are beating out women who are ambitious and daring even today. The entire time I was reading “Snow White,” I imagined Taylor Swift (who won over both Lady Gaga and Beyonce at the Grammy’s in 2010) in my head.

snow white stars

There is still that deep dichotomy in modern culture and it is used to oppress women through a sexual double standard, establishing extremely rigid rules for female sexual behavior while allowing male sexual behavior to range from abstinence to promiscuity without similar social judgment.

The wide appeal of Taylor Swift seems a desperate attempt to infuse our increasingly socially liberal country with a palatable conservative ideology by means of a complacent, repressed feminine ideal. The insistence on conservative role models over the often-criticized oversexed women of pop music means girl-bashing boy-crazy rain-soaked anthems sung by a woman valued for her “purity” over her intelligence or even her talent.

While we like to believe that these “antiquated” notions about the ideal woman are, if not gone, at least being challenged today, we still find ourselves dressing up as Disney princesses and humming Taylor Swift songs under our breath. We still root for the girl in the bleachers over the cheerleader.


Critical Text Analysis of Little Red Riding Hood

Maria Tartar’s edited version of The Classic Fairy Tales sparked a new interest in me of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and the symbolism portrayed in that tale. According to Tartar, the act of Red Riding Hood getting into the bed with wolf was a metaphor for the act of losing one’s virginity. The problem with this interpretation, as pointed out by the Introduction, is that some variations have Little Red getting in the bed and some have her figure out the wolf’s tricks before she does.

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration

Little Red Riding Hood Illustration

This detail is crucial because it would signify, if the metaphor was constant across variations, that some Little Reds lost their virginity while others still protected it. If this is the case, why did some girls outwit the wolf quickly enough and keep their innocence?

According to Tartar, this was entirely a matter of choice on the part of the girl. She believes that no girl could possibly be dumb enough to believe a hairy wolf was her grandmother; therefore, it was her repressed or unspoken desire to get into bed with the wolf. This would mean that the authors who had their characters get into the bed were suggesting that each willing lost her innocence to the wolf.

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

This is a strong statement on female sexuality, and a statement on how women are actively involved in the quest for sex and not merely victims sought out by men. From what I’ve read about society during the time period that most of these stories were written, this is a very risky message to send to little girls who were raised to act as objects and to be owned by their husbands. It was a progressive mind set that gave the idea that women sought out sex in similar ways as men.

This is a relatively hard topic to discuss in a children’s book, so my more simple belief is that Little Red outwitting the wolf is more of a coming of age mark that does not necessarily have to do with the act of sex, but the act of recognizing the pursuit of man. It is the age when girls start to recognize that boys are pursuing them, which comes at different ages for all girls just like it comes at a different time for Little Red in each variation. It is a time when girls lose their innocence because they begin to recognize their femininity. It is the act of women realizing the lengths men will go to get women into bed, but learning how to trick or outmaneuver them in this quest. The act of sex can still be inferred from this interpretation, but sex is not the only act that could mark the loss of innocence in the story.

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The Water Babies: Tom’s Coming of Age

An interesting diagram that can be interpreted as the wavering nature of coming-of-age.

In our lives, we grow, develop, and mature both mentally and physically every day in a variety of ways. Because of this, readers of literature naturally gravitate towards works focusing upon character development and evolution. A particular sub-genre, the coming-of-age story, usually chronicles a young boy or girl as they face external and internal conflicts and how those develop and mature their personalities and world-views. In Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, our protagonist Tom morphs into a water-baby and learns more about his faults and how to correct them over the course of the story, and by the conclusion both literally and figuratively transforms into an adult.

When Tom begins his journey, his demeanor reflects a quintessentially immature young boy, reflected by his habits of agitating innocent animals, prioritizing himself over others, and disobeying the rules of his adult figures. In most coming-of-age stories, the protagonist gradually learns how to sympathize, understand, and rationalize. Although Tom’s maturity slowly grows, he tends to retreat back to his poor behaviors, even after experiencing pivotal moments in his life. Early in the story, Tom initially fails to find any other water babies. After saving a lobster from a fisherman’s trap, the water babies greet him and introduce him to their home and adult figures, who congratulate him upon his refined sense of empathy. However, later in the story Tom steals sweets from Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, (a loving, generous adult figure) a clear sign that he has yet to truly mature. This regression indicates the difference between Kingsley’s coming-of-age story and the multitude of stories written by other authors; Kingsley suggests Tom cannot mature through one event and must continue to compromise morality in order to truly reach a point of complete ethical sensibility.

Who could steal from this loving woman?!

Another interesting difference in Kingsley’s coming-of-age story is how Tom ultimately matures as an adult. In most coming-of-age stories, a conflict’s conclusion that naturally occurs within the story serves as the impetus for the protagonist’s realizations and subsequent maturation. For Tom, he is ordered to save Mr. Grimes in order to grow from a boy into a man. Although he saves Mr. Grimes and learns more about himself and his capability to empathize, the fact that it was a dictated rite-of-passage from one of his adult figures diminishes the impact of his growth and implies that Tom would have never developed unless placed under the guidance of an adult figure. He also literally becomes a full-grown man at the conclusion of the story, a not-so-subtle indication from Kingsley that Tom has indeed matured. Most coming-of-age stories usually have the child only figuratively mature, but Kingsley probably included the detail to make the premise more apparent to younger readers.

In the end he gets the girl!

Overall, Kingsley’s unique approach to the coming-of-age story through Tom showcases a respectable understanding of the sub-genre and serves as a fitting guideline for children and parents alike.


Everyone has a Chance for Redemption: Exploring the Afterlife in The Water-Babies


           In The Water-Babies there are extremes in pureness of characters, like Grimes, that master chimney sweep representing almost an absolute evil and, at the other end, Ellie, a child of pure innocence.  Then we have Tom, who is somewhere in the middle as he is a child who has not had any guidance for what is right and wrong morally according to the Christian beliefs of that time.  All of these initially-human characters, despite their innate purity or lack of it, have a chance of redemption once they die, which is quite contrary to the normal Christian belief that only the good and free-of-sin can enter the afterlife.

Starting from the extreme of evil, Grimes is a hateful man who definitely is portrayed as quite the sinner from the very first chapter through his behaviors noted by Tom and the abuse received by Tom, and he is warned by the Irishwoman, who is actually Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, about his “foul” nature (Kingsley 8).  When Grimes falls into the water and is taken by fairies to where he belongs, I assume that this means that he died and was taken either a purgatory or hell because later, he is found by Tom in the Other-end-of Nowhere in a place called Leaveheavenalone, which is definitely not heaven but definitely an afterlife.  Once Tom and Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid help Grimes to realize some of the pain he’s caused, he is freed from that place but only to work in a crater to “work out [his] time” (Kingsley 184).  He has a chance at redemption, but he must first work to earn it after realizing his sins.

Conversely, Ellie is the picturesque angel (and the image is more obvious later when she is given wings), and as an innocent child, it seems like she could just enter into heaven, no problem.  However, even she must pass a sort of pre-heaven trial of a purgatory-like nature before being able to enter.  She had to commit good deeds by first going where did not like to go and help someone who she did not like (Kingsley 127).  After helping Tom become a better person and Christian, she was redeemed and her soul allowed to enter heaven.

Now Tom, a more middle character between good and evil, also had to follow a path similar to Ellie’s in order to be able to be saved.  As a human, Tom did not know right from wrong and committed sins, but he was given a second chance when he desired to be clean and was transformed into a water-baby (like a baptism to start anew).  After being taught to be a good Christian by Ellie and the fairies, he desired entrance to heaven, and so he, too, had to help someone he didn’t like in a place he wouldn’t like.  It was after a long and arduous journey and his reaching out to help Grimes, his abuser, that he completed this quest and was redeemed and allowed to enter heaven.


            All three characters of varying degrees of “innocence” have a chance in the afterlife to achieve redemption.  This is contrary to mainstream Christian belief in that one should have repented all sins before dying in order to ascend into heaven, but this portrayal of saved souls after death reveal what are possibly the author’s thoughts on that matter — everyone has a chance at redemption whether in life or in the afterlife.

Kingsley, Charles. The Water-Babies : A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.

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