I keep a commonplace book of sorts where I write quotes from things I’m reading, watching, or listening to. If something I encounter causes me to pause for whatever reason, I try to record it in that notebook. Back in January of this year (2020), I read the first two books of S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember series and transcribed five quotes from them in my commonplace book.
(The Green Ember series is a children’s fantasy story about rabbits. I highly recommend it. We’ve started reading it together as a family after I finished it on my own. I don’t know about the one-year-old, but the rest of us, from six to forty years old, are thoroughly enjoying it.)
Five months later, I went back and re-read those quotes out of the original context and in the context of the current events of 2020 and was impacted again by those words. I don’t think this new context perverts their original meaning, but it’s worth noting that it is not the context in which the words were originally written (or read by me).
Here are those five quotes with a brief explanation of their original context.
It’s only that, when you’re older, you hand out wisdom to your children like you know everything, but it is sometimes hard to follow your own advice.The Green Ember, ch. 2
This was from a father speaking to his nearly grown children and is a follow-up to another great quote that I did not, for whatever reason, copy down in my commonplace book. “I regret many things that I’ve done, … but most of all I regret those moments when I said to Fear, ‘You are my master.'”
If you aren’t angry about the wicked things happening in the world all around, then you don’t have a soul.The Green Ember, ch. 13
One rabbit was angry, probably rightfully so, but angry at the wrong rabbit. This quote is from the target of that anger to the first rabbit and is preceded by this: “‘Picket,’ he said quietly, ‘stay angry. It’s okay if it’s at me, for now.'”
You can choose what you believe, Shuffler, but you can’t change what’s true.The Green Ember, ch. 20
I love this quote, but it’s interesting going back and reading the context to discover that the speaker was somewhat wrong in this instance. This is a more experienced and knowledgeable, though not really older, rabbit speaking to a more sheltered, ignorant one trying to convince him to not trust a liar. That third rabbit was certainly a liar but happened to be speaking the truth this time, which, if anything, made him all the more dangerous.
Sometimes I think we’re all bad, when we focus on our own place.The Green Ember, ch. 37
This is from an older rabbit speaking to a family member who is questioning why another family member turned out to be a traitor and is followed up with this: “He began to think less about the grand cause and more about his place in it. He thought less of how he worked to serve … and more about what he accomplished.”
The seed of the New World smolders.Ember Falls, ch. 7
Healing is on the horizon, but a fire comes first.
Bear the flame.
This is part of a verse that is from a tale within the tale. The heroic actions at the end of the first book are chronicled and used to rally the rabbits to the cause of reclaiming their lost kingdom. It is both a call to action, to war, and a message of hope.
I’m generally not a huge fan of readers applying additional interpretation out of context. I, personally, prefer to enjoy a story just for its own sake and not over-analyze it. However, I do believe that stories are, in a sense, living creations and that life is breathed into them not just from the author but from the reader as well and can certainly have meaning outside of the context of the story and in the context of the current events of the reader’s life.
The Green Ember series has been meaningful to me in both contexts. I encourage you to read it; and, if you do, I hope you will feel the same as me.