Monday, 6 October 2014

"SHARE IT SHARE IT": The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

Funny thing, sharing.  When A was a toddler, she would wend her marauding way around church halls at toddler group plucking choice plastic fripperies from other small children chanting "share it share it" as she went.  To her, "share it" meant "you have to give that thing to me because I want it."

"You've got to share" says every parent to every small child ever.  This is backed up in countless moral tales designed for little folk.  Our particular favourite in this house is The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. We were given this as a bath book when A was a baby.  We loved it from the start, mainly because the author's surname amused us.  I think that's the thing when you have very small children - life can seem to be a series of fairly dull, repetitive tasks based around bodily fluids, and so any small amusement is seized upon, because godammitweneedsomethingtolaughatorwe'lljustsitdownandweep.

The Rainbow Fish is a lovely book, and the illustrations are really very beautiful. MrM and I still remember all of the words a decade on, which suggests either that it is liltingly memorable, or that we read it every day for such an excessive number of years that it is now permanently etched into our memories.  Or perhaps a bit of both. It concerns a fish who has many pretty rainbow-coloured scales. A small fish asks for a scale.  Drama ensues.

Two things strike me:

1.There are things that it is important to share, and things that are surely not.  I mean, you make a massive cake, it's better to share.  You get given two books for Christmas that are the same - obviously giving one away is a sensible option. You share what you are able to, in a manner that suits you.  However, in this book, the fish is being asked to give away actual bodily parts.  And not just any bodily parts.  Lovely shiny ones. If I were out and about, and a person I'd never met asked me to cut some of my hair off and give it to them, I would firmly, and possibly not altogether politely, decline.  We expect toddlers to share all the time, I think mainly because it stops other mums giving us evils.  We expect our small child to climb out of the cosy coupe and let another small child have some fun in it.  But if someone came along and stood by my car menacingly and started shouting that they wanted to drive it, no way would I get out and hand the keys over! I can understand why toddlers think that sharing sucks. Even more so when this sharing involves taking off actual bits of your skin, and giving it away.

2. If a fish removed a large proportion of their scales, surely that would really hurt! The fish would look really mangy, and possibly even die (disclaimer: I am not a fish health expert, but it can't be good, can it?)

The message of the rainbow fish is if people ask for some of your really good stuff, give it to them, and they'll like you.  If you refuse, they won't play with you.  When you give them your good stuff, they will then like you, and you will all look the same, as you will have redistributed the very things that give you your unique look and persona.  Obliterate the self in order that others will deign to keep you company.  Well, sod that for a game of soldiers.  If I were the rainbow fish, I'd be keeping every single one of those scales, not being bullied into negating my very self for the sake of "sharing".  Pah.

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