Sometimes while reading a tale of magic which we know perfectly well was spun from imagination, we still end up believing every word. And finally, when we are done reading it, we are left with a smile as though we’ve just alighted from a train after a wholesome journey; as if we are now somehow different from what we were before we read it. That is how it felt after having disembarked from the sleigh of nostalgia that is J.K. Rowling’s The Christmas Pig, which released this October.
The premise is simple. Jack is distraught on Christmas Eve after having lost his best friend, his toy Dur Pig (DP), in a terrible accident. He hates DP’s replacement, the Christmas Pig (CP), and cannot comprehend how the older people around could even try to supplant his best friend with another toy from the market. CP smells new, feels soft, and is nowhere close to DP’s greyish, faded body that smelled of their countless adventures together.
Christmas Eve is, of course, a night of miracles and hope. When CP comes to life and proposes to Jack a daring plan to rescue his best friend, Jack agrees without a second thought – even though it means abandoning the world of the living to descend into a strange realm. And so begins the quest of Jack and CP as they set out to find DP in ‘the Land of Lost Things’.
The Land of Lost Things is a magical realm where the ‘Things’ you lose in the real world are sent to wait till they are either found or forgotten forever. Here. one can witness the Harry Potter author’s fascination with sorting once again. The Things are sorted and sent into either the cowboy-infested, barren lands of ‘the Disposable’, the country life of ‘Bother-it’s-Gone’ or the rich Venetian canals of ‘the Missed’. Things no one cares about are stranded in the polar deserts of the ‘Wastes of the Unlamented’.
Running parallel to the geographic journeys in the Land of Lost Things is also the tale of the growing camaraderie between Jack and CP.
Rowling is a creator of vivid worlds, that is no secret. But the world of The Christmas Pig in itself is not a new idea. It is Disney’s Toy Story meets Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. But what is delightful about the book are its true heroes – the lost Things. For the Land of the Lost Things is filled with innumerable beautifully sculpted and persuasive characters that will send the reader tumbling down nostalgia lane. It is through these Things that we catch a glimpse of a world that continues to follow its past, present and future – even when no one is watching.
With the little back stories of the Things, Rowling creates a labyrinth of memories we have forgotten to crave. Be it ‘Poem’, the first draft of a verse you misplaced, or ‘Wristwatch’, who has words of love engraved on his back but is no longer missed because its owners have split up, the Things all have a personality of their own. We encounter cowboy-scissors, fugitive rabbits, a Jack Sparrow-ish compass, a haughty address book and a myriad of other characters, all constructed with the ease of a master at work – even those who only exist for the readers for just a single sentence.
To a degree, The Christmas Pig plays out like scenes from a Pixar movie on paper. Its USP is that it is a children’s book for the children of today. Rowling gives their wisdom and understanding the credit they deserve. It is a poised story of making new best friends without losing your old ones. It is a sensitive story of Jack’s silent sacrifices, and his patient adjustment with a new world post the divorce of his parents. It is a modern story that reflects the realities of today where children are often forced to grow up before their time.
The book deals softly with these pains of children, and their torment when they are compelled to come to terms with losing friends, family and familiarity. The Christmas Pig does not even shy away from depicting destruction and death. Why should it? In the unfiltered world of content that is available around children today, to think a child is insulated from the horrors of life would be to ostrich away in sand. But Rowling deals with many such mature topics with the softness of a fairy godmother.
For all these reasons, The Christmas Pig hits a home run. Enter its pages, and flap your arms hard – for you will fly.
Gourav Mohanty is a lawyer practicing in the Bombay High Court. He has five years of experience in dispute resolution, and is a gold medalist from Symbiosis Law School.
Featured image credit: Amazon/Editing: LiveWire