Time: Baffling us since Childhood

Recently, I’ve been studying and analysing a lot of Children’s Literature, and themes that occurs quite frequently are not issues that children can relate to, but adults. Look at me that way all you want, but if you’ve ever re-read books on a nostalgic binge you’ll know what I’m talking about.

A book we studied in my literature class was Momo, by Michael Ende. It’s rare that I will enjoy a book that I’ve studied to death but this is one of the few exceptions. Here the importance of time and how we ‘spend’ it is tackled head on, and when I first read it I picked up on it straight away, as a (questionable) adult. Now we have experienced more of life, we are much more perceptive and often will try too hard to predict why things happen, rather than just embracing the moment.

One thing I did notice though was that time as a theme appeared in so many books I loved as a child. The first one that sprang to mind was Molly Moon’s Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure. Here she’s kidnapped and taken through time to the past, where her latest villain is attempting to kill her past self so she’ll never learn hypnotism. Another example is of course, that iconic part of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry and Hermione have to save Buckbeak and Sirius Black via Time Travel. What do these all have in common? Changing the past.

We as humans seem to be obsessed with the unknown and things we can’t control. Time is a concept we can never truly comprehend, and many people have tried to gain an understanding of it through the medium of literature. In Momo, time is personified; in Molly Moon, time is power; and in Harry Potter time is a way to gain justice and rectify mistakes.

We also fantasise over the amount of time we have. Hermione Granger uses a Time Turner in order to attend more classes, and works herself to exhaustion as a result. The Grey Men in Momo encourage the citizens of Momo’s town to save time, therefore people socialise less and Momo ends up being ostracised from society. Molly Moon ends up encountering several other versions of herself, and she is left with the responsibility of returning them to their rightful place before her childhood is forever changed.

What’s so interesting about all this though, is that children just accept it. They just read and enjoy the story, and I don’t know if it’s because I still study, but we constantly over-think things in general, and as a result we can find a way to relate to everything. As I mentioned in a previous post, we constantly seek characters and themes to relate to, and time is something we all can. I haven’t read the Molly Moon series since I was a child, but the whole time element is still poignant to me.

Time is more precious to us, yet we still struggle to get a firm grip on it. Luckily, there’s always time to start a new book.

PS: I’m sorry it’s been a while. Apparently I have a degree to study for. I can’t just read books all day. What a cruel world we live in.

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