I grew up in Australia. There, most people's parents and teachers read them stories of 'Snugglepot and Cuddlepie' when they're young. May Gibbs created these iconic works that we all cherish. It's a tradition and the characters of May Gibbs form a sort of folklore in the culture.
Given my love for this author, I decided to conduct research deep in the historic archives. What I found was confronting and I confided in my mother via email:
"I went looking to see if I could find any stories by May Gibbs... You know, newspaper serials that have been lost to history. You can imagine how excited I was when I found one from a WA paper edition in 1908! ... Unfortunately, the first story wasn't what I was expecting. There's something about Pat's situation that makes me really uneasy, just for starters! I'm consoling myself that the narrative is a sign of the times, rather than a damning indication of her character as an individual. It really does touch on some very uncomfortable aspects of Australian history; issues we're still dealing with today."
The phrase 'sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants' came to mind, and I decided to do a critical analysis of the work then release it for the modern reader to evaluate.
I'm not sure if this is detrimental to the legacy of May Gibbs. It's a well written, engaging yarn. It's just so uncomfortable. It's hard to explain. I'm keen to find out how others interpret the work.
I wonder... Do others see any hints of social issues flowing under the surface of this 'romantic' story, like the smooth waters above a dangerous rip current? How should we interpret it? What can we learn from this?
These questions are the purpose of this release. 📚