The Little Engine that Could (was Re: Scorned Feminists)

Subject: The Little Engine that Could (was Re: Scorned Feminists)
From: Kat Nagel/MasterWork <katnagel -at- EZNET -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 1996 10:35:46 -0400

John Russell writes:
>>I recently obtained a book for my 2-year old called "The Little Train
>>that Could." I hadn't read this book in many years.
> (snip)
>I am so angered and offended by this portrayal that I can only read this
>book satirically to my son


"The Little Train that Could" is one of the modern Politically Correct
adaptations (I almost typed 'bastardizations') of the classic

"The Little Engine that Could".
^^^^^^

I still have my first copy: a tattered old thing with torn and
crayon-scribbled pages.

It was a hand-me-down from older relatives, and I got it around 1950 or
1951. The copyright date is indecipherable, but I know my mother and aunt
and uncle read it, among others --- there are eight names before mine on
the inside front cover. I'd guess it was originally published no later
than 1930, although I haven't verified this. It may even have been written
in the 'Teens, since the revisionists don't seem to be having any copyright
problems. Two of them --- (c) 1990 and 1992 --- don't even admit the
existance of an earlier edition!

None of the modern editions have the original illustrations, or the
complete text. They are all significantly shorter, and seem to have some
kind of political agenda. Some are radical feminist; one seems racially
motivated (the nice adults are dark colors, the nasty ones are pale
pastels); some turn all the adults into supportive-but-realistic
good-parent-droids. They all make me a little sick.

The original 'Little Engine' was just a kid. I don't see any
gender-specific characteristics in the illustrations of the LE, or in its
dialog in the text on the majority of the pages (several pages have pieces
missing, or are completely covered in Burnt Umber). There might have been
an occasional generic 'he' on the damaged pages, but the critter wasn't
overwhelmingly male. I certainly had no trouble identifying with it.

The adult engines in the original are pretty evenly divided by gender. A
couple are definitely male, one is definitely female, and a fourth is
probably female, given the biases of the time (it sounds 'motherly').
There is one group of engines in a train yard that looks like it contains
mostly males, but there is at least one train with frilly curtains <smile>.
One of the main-character males and one of the females qualify as 'rude'
and 'unfriendly'. All are uniformly discouraging and pessimistic.

Bottom line:
Ignore all the modern editions.

Haunt garage sales, junk shops and tacky used-book stores. Find the
original, or the mid-50's Golden Book edition, which used the original text
and illustrations. Find it and read it to your kid, often. It's worth the
effort.

After 45 years, -this- passively-moderate feminist still finds herself
chanting "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" whenever she's
struggling with an impossible task. And throwing an "I thought I could!"
party is a great way to celebrate the end of a Project From Hell.


@Kat_____ Kat Nagel
MasterWork Consulting Services Rochester, NY
LIFE1 (techwriting/docdesign) katnagel -at- eznet -dot- net
LIFE2 (vocal chamber music) PlaynSong -at- aol -dot- com


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