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By Dana Ferguson

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Extra info for Children's Literature Review, Volume 150: Excerpts from Reviews, Criticism, and Commentary on Books for Children and Young People

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The wedding guest departs a sadder and wiser man; he turns from the wedding feast, from the world of domestic relations and the celebration of the patterns of social reality. As listener to the story, he has been transported by the storyteller, the shamanistic Mariner who is periodically seized by a compulsion to retell the story of his own transport to a world where he struggled with demonic powers and confronted mysteries of the soul. The shaman’s vocation as an ecstatic traveler resembles that of the archaic adventurer.

Barrie, and A. A. Milne—many of them bearing hallmarks born of Carroll’s groundbreaking canon. Like Alice, their stories feature anthropomorphic animals, children transported into another time, realm, or alternate universe, as well as an increased emphasis on maintaining a child’s perspective, though the tone of these books is often more utopian in nature and less prone to examples of Carroll’s overt surrealism. The books born of the post-Victorian period are generally cited for this heightened attunement to both the interests and needs of a younger readership, a philosophy that notably diverged from that of the previous generation, whose works often felt like they were intended to be read as much by an adult audience as for their children.

Barbauld’s complaint that the poem lacked a moral, Coleridge asserted that it had too much moral. The pat “He prayeth best, who loveth best/All things both great and small” appeared, in retrospect, too moral to Coleridge, as if he realized that a story like the Mariner’s was too rich, too haunting, too mysterious, to be captured in such aphoristic pointedness. Clearly, the wedding guest who listens to, who cannot choose but hear, the story perceives something other, something darker, which the moral conclusion the Mariner tags onto his story will not explain.

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