Gary Dexter

Surprising literary ventures | 1 October 2005

The Big Green Book (1962) by Robert Graves

The Big Green Book (1962) by Robert Graves

The Big Green Book (1962)

by Robert Graves

The Big Green Book, a children’s story illustrated by Maurice Sendak (before he won fame with Where the Wild Things Are), contains some familiar Gravesian themes. Jack, an orphan, finds a big green book of magic in the attic and uses it to transform himself into a druidic-looking little old man with a knee-length beard. He then begins to torment his elders. To his uncle, he says, ‘You see these three peas? Put them in a row in the middle of your hand, and see if you can blow away the middle one without blowing away the outside ones.’ The uncle tries, but can’t. Then Jack covers up the two outside ones with his fingers and blows the central one away. ‘Oh, that isn’t magic!’ exclaims the uncle, but when he tries to do it himself, his fingernails grow so long that they pierce the palm of his hand and he screams in agony. Jack laughs uproariously. If this episode rings any bells, an identical scene is enacted in Claudius the God, between Claudius and a very Jack-like British druid.

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