From the author of Tuck Everlasting… which I haven’t read, but I’m assuming some of you have. ;)
Egan is excited to be visiting his cousins in Instep village for their annual Fair. After all, exciting things never happen in his own city! But what promises to be even more exciting than the fair is the Megrimmum.
Looking down on Instep is a mountain called Kneeknock Rise. This is where the Megrimmum lives. No one has ever seen the Megrimmum, but they’ve heard its howls and screams during the thunderstorms. They’ve seen his handiwork in the village. And they are deathly scared of him. For they all know that the Megrimmum could destroy them if he so chose.
It isn’t until his cousin, Ada, calls him a coward that Egan decides that he will prove his bravery – by climbing up Kneeknock Rise and confronting the Megrimmum. But will he be destroyed by the Megrimmum? Or will he learn a valuable lesson in human nature?
Okay, I gotta admit that this book pulled me in and held me tightly until its resolution. It may be a kid’s book, but boy-howdy is it packed with subtlety and an acute observation of humanity!
When Egan first arrives in Instep, he is regaled with stories of the Megrimmum, as well as ways to please the Megrimmum, what the Megrimmum requires of the villagers, etc. He listens in awe as the first shrieks and moans make their way down the mountain. And then comes the day that he decides to climb Kneeknock Rise and confront the Megrimmum.
What Egan finds is that the Megrimmum does not exist. The sounds attributed to the Megrimmum actually emanate from a hot spring that is located at the top of the mountain. The villagers have been living in fear of a thing that does not exist! Egan believes that the villagers will be overjoyed to hear of his discovery – will praise him as a hero! But when he tells the villagers of his discovery, they are strangely quiet. They don’t seem to believe him. And it isn’t long before they begin to question his sanity.
Now, I don’t know if Natalie Babbitt meant this to be a representation of religion – people will go on foolishly believing in God despite the fact that he isn’t there. There’s always the possibility that this is how she meant it. But it is never stated thus, so I’m not going to assume that was her intent. Personally, I found the story to be a powerful reminder that –
- People believe what they want to believe. Christians, non-Christians it doesn’t matter – people decide what they want to believe, and then cling desperately to it. Any contradictory evidence is thrown out of the window. Once a belief is firmly settled, it is almost impossible to overthrow it.
- People won’t thank you for dispelling error. Oh, a few may – those whose hearts and minds are open to truth. But simply walking into a room and announcing truth will not establish you as a hero. You will be looked down upon – your sanity or intelligence will be questioned. People are essentially small-minded, and often those most fervent are the most deceived.
Because these truths are universal, and don’t just apply as non-believers speaking of believers or vise-versa, I think that the story can be used to powerfully communicate these points. True, there is superstition scattered here and there as the villagers believe that a supernatural being holds control over their village and that they must accomplish certain actions which he likes, but by the end Egan and we, the readers, know that these things are all false.
In the midst of an intense situation, one man says ‘good lord’.
Conclusion. A good read, but one which will require lots of thinking and some discussion.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret