John James Audubon, murderer of children.

June 2nd, 2012 11:21 am by Kelly Garbato

I started this post on my birthday, but it was shelved shortly thereafter when Jayne, always with the excellent timing, ate my book. $7 and a used copy later, and I’m back in business!

2012-05-09 - My Mother, She Killed Me - 0003

So this is pretty cool. The very first piece in My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales casts John James Audubon (yes, that John James Audubon) as the story’s villain: the embodiment of evil, Audubon is a mass murderer of birds – and a child-killer, to boot (the titular pelican child is but one of his many countless victims).

Joy Williams, the author of “Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child,” explains the origins of her story:

When I was doing some research for a book on the Florida Keys some twenty years ago, I discovered that John James Audubon, despite his revered status, was a great slaughterer of birds. (Perhaps everyone was aware of this.) He killed tirelessly for pleasurable sport and would wipe out entire mangrove islands of its inhabitants because…well, because I guess it was easy once he got started. I do hope the curse of history will catch up with him. Perhaps Baba Iaga will be the great facilitator in that regard.

By story’s end, the anti-hero has taken to the skies, shining a magical lamp on everyone she meets, illuminating that which they’d rather not see – namely, the “humanity” present in all animals, not just those of the human variety:

[…] Baba Iaga continued to fly through the skies in her mortar, navigating with her pestle. But instead of a broom, she carried the lamp that illuminated the things people did not know or were reluctant or refused to understand. And she would lower the lamp over a person and they would see how extraordinary were the birds and beasts of the world, and that they should be valued for their bright and beautiful and mysterious selves and not willfully harmed for they were more precious than castles or the golden rocks dug out from the earth. [More so, actually. – ed.]

But she could reach only a few people each day with the lamp.

Once, seven people experienced its light but usually it was far less. It would take thousands of years, tens of thousands perhaps, to reach all the human beings with the light.

Baba Iaga came home one evening – so tired – and she gathered her little family around her, the pelican child and the dog and the cat and said, My dear ones, I still have magic and power unrealized. Do you wish to become human beings, for some think you are under a hellish spell. Do you want to become human? The dog and the cat spoke. The pelican child had not spoken since the day of her return.

The dog and the cat said – well, I won’t tell you what they said.

But I will tell you this: I cried.

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “John James Audubon, murderer of children.”

  1. Book Review: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, Kate Bernheimer, ed. (2010) » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] entertaining. The anthology begins on a strong note with “Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child,” an unexpectedly animal-friendly tale in which author Joy Williams casts John James Audubon (of the Audubon Society fame) as a mass […]

Leave a Reply