Being an avid reader in a country that doesn’t use your native language can be a problem. To get good stuff to read I either have to download it, have it shipped to me, or go to a big city and spend a bunch of money on imported books.
None of those options work well for me because when I say ‘avid’ I mean I read multiple books a week. To have them shipped, or buy them would cost way too much money.
Luckily, the English department at the college has a little collection of English language books available to check out. The only problem is there are all, at least, 50 to 100 years old. The collection is mostly made up of Penguin Classic’s with the odd mystery and romance thrown in (donations perhaps from past English teachers?)
So, I have resigned myself to reading the classics. Actually, it is not so bad. I mean, while I know all about Huckleberry Finn, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read it. I’ve realized that classics are well-known books that are completely unknown. Take, for instance, The Swiss Family Robinson.
I’ve been to Disney World, so I thought I knew the main idea of the book: Family gets stranded on tropical island, makes a crazy tree house and lives their lives comfortably on know-how and ingenuity.
Well, the truth is quite different and quite sinister. First off, the family gets stranded on the most magical deserted island ever. There are kangaroos, buffalo, apes, baboons, penguins, hyenas and elephants all living there. I know it was written in the 1800’s when much of the world was unexplained, but c’mon! Even back then they had to know that elephants, penguins and buffalo live in two totally different climates!
Also on this island is every kind of useful plant from all over the world. There is an African tar tree for making shoes and plastics, a New Zealand tall grass to weave clothes, some kind of wax berry to make candles from South America, and all kinds of delicious edibles. There are also palm trees and bamboo forests right next to one another. It just stretched any suspension of disbelief a bit far.
As if that didn’t make their life easy enough, the ship they were crashed on carried enough goods to supply an entire brand new colony for several months. There were barrels of butter, salt, ham, grain, livestock animals, tools (enough to make a sawmill and a grist mill), clothes and all manner of useful items. How could these people not survive after all the supplies that are available to them?! Ingenuity and know-how my ass.
But the worst thing is how they act. They are all polite, and very “Godly” but they have no respect for their environment. They shoot first and ask questions later…literally. They have the lightest trigger fingers and take down all sorts of amazing creatures for mere pleasure. I’m not a hunter myself, but I’m not against it. In survival style books I understand the necessity to talk about, and show, hunting.
But in this book they just kill, kill, kill for the first 100 pages. They even admit at one point to having too much meat, then the kids (young teens) go off and shoot more amazing animals unnecessarily. And the way it is written shows such cruelty. Here is an example:
“They (a group of monkey’s) were taken by surprise completely, and the dog, now really ravenous from hunger, had seized and was fiercely tearing one to pieces before we could approach the spot. “
Turns out the monkey it was eating was the mother to a newborn. So what does the family do? Why, take the newborn to use as their little pet of course! And not only that, they transport the monkey by tying it to the back of the dog that just ate the mother. Talk about animal cruelty. Of course in this magical island the monkey not only immediately obeys the family, but forgets its natural monkey nature and is immediately domesticated.
They also do surprising damage to the environment for such a small group of people. They cut down trees, build dams, drain wetlands and divert streams. At one point one of their houses gets ransacked by gorillas (they have multiple houses all over the island at this point) so to prevent it from happening again, they poison dozens of gorillas who die horrible, painful deaths.
I don’t know, maybe it is because I’ve been reading a lot about the Copenhagen Climate Change meeting that is going on right now but, to me, the Swiss Family Robinson represents what is wrong with the world. Lack or respect for any other creature, lack of respect for the environment and total entitlement based on religious beliefs.
I will never look at their tree house in Disney World the same way again….