When I was a little boy, my aunt Sally (sit terra tibi levis) gave me A Wrinkle in Time for my birthday. At the time I was too grown up for children's books, and so I smiled, thanked her, and put it on the shelf, where it has always been ever since. Being younger than that now, and having run across a series of quotes by Madeleine L'Engle that I found interesting, I decided to read it.
This morning, as I lay in bed reading chapter 7, I arrived at the following passage, in which the three children encounter a menacing stranger with red eyes who can communicate telepathically and who has, it seems, dominated the minds of the men, women, and children on this world. As he attempts to control the children's minds, too, Charles Wallace, the youngest, a preternaturally clever and creepy five year old, whom for the life of me I can only hear speaking in the voice of Stewie Griffin, resists.
'...For you, as well as for the rest of all the happy, useful people on this planet, I, in my own strength, am willing to assume all the pain, all the responsibility, all the burden of thought and decision.'
'We will make our own decisions, thank you,' Charles Wallace said.
'But of course. And our decisions will be one, yours and mine. Don't you see how much better, how much easier for you that is? Let me show you. Let us say the multiplication table together.'
'No,' Charles Wallace said.
'Once one is one. Once two is two. Once three is three.'
'Mary had a little lamb!' Charles Wallace shouted. 'Its fleece was white as snow!'
'Once for is four. Once five is five. Once six is six.'
'And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.'
The instant I read this, I sat up in bed. I had seen it before. In J. Michael Straczynski's brilliant SF series Babylon 5, a group of human telepaths have run away from Psi Corps, which is about as evil as it sounds. ('The Corps is mother; the Corps is father.') Now in the episode, A Race through Dark Places, they find themselves hunted by a Psi Cop, Alfred Bester -- that's right, Alfred Bester, and played magnificently by Walter Koenig -- who is strong enough to read their minds whether they want him to or not. Since they refuse to go back, they fear he will kill them. And so they prepare to resist both physically and mentally. To keep him out of their minds, they, too, recite 'Mary had a little lamb' over and over.
|Alfred Bester, SF Author|
Given the context in each scene, as well as how allusive and literary Babylon 5 is, I have little doubt this allusion to Madeleine L'Engle is intentional. Nicely done, JMS. Nicely done.
Allusions are one of the ways in which reading, or, in this case, reading and watching teach us that we are not all alone in the night. And A Wrinkle in Time and Babylon 5 are both rich in allusions to, and quotations from, literature and poetry. That's why I've worked several allusions of my own into this note: to a C. S. Lewis essay, to an apocryphal C. S. Lewis quote, to Bob Dylan, three times to Babylon 5. I didn't do so (merely) to be clever, or because, if you get them, then we'll both be clever, but because they will reveal a fellowship between us as reader and writer, between us as readers, and between us and the texts from which the allusions derive. Because it's this kind of connection that makes us human in a higher and better way that links us through past, present, and future.
|Alfred Bester, SF Monster|