1. Excellent points. I once read Gladys Malvern’s novelization of the book of Esther called Behold Your Queen! Malvern puts a very innocent construction on the scenario of Xerxes trying out each new potential wife: he merely interviews the girls, and if he doesn’t think much of their intelligence or character he has nothing further to do with them. And I think the thirty days’ hiatus is put down to him being very busy. But, yeah, Occam’s Razor and all that. I think your interpretation is the more credible one.

    Concerning darkish original fairy tales, I think we err in believing that young children ought to be the primary audience. They’re really more young adult fare.

  2. Joanna says:

    Stephen — Oh my goodness. That made me laugh so hard.

    About Esther –  the book “Hadassah: One night with the King” does a really good job at capturing the reality of the situation, the characters, and the story.

    …and then the movie “One Night with the King” messed up every plot in that book. >_<

  3. Kessie says:

    I’ve never heard Esther called a great love story, only Ruth. Esther is said to contain “the greatest literary ironies”. Which it does.

    Nursery rhymes contain some horrible things! Little Bo Peep’s sheep are all killed in the end (she finds their tails hanging in a tree). Ring around the Rosy was about dying of the Black Plague. What about grabbing the old man by the left leg and throwing him down the stairs? I mean, sheesh! (Goosy goosy gander, whither shall I wander…)

  4. Julie D says:

    Oh, when I was in Sunday school the other day, they used A Christmas Carol as an example of “storing up treasures in heaven.”  (We were using Alcorn’s Treasure Principle material). And it made me so mad, because you can only define Scourge’s transformation as “seeing things in light of eternity” if you water down the definition to the point where “horrible reputation”= eternal consequences.

  5. Loren Eaton says:

    A lot of people mistake the point of David and Goliath, thinking it a fable about bravely facing difficult odds. That’s not what the author intended to communicate, though. 1 Samuel 17 mentions multiple times that Goliath is “from Gath.” We see in Joshua 11:22 that the Anakim were left in Gath when the Israelites failed to obey God and fully conquer the land which He promised to give them. David’s act is less about bravery than in trusting God’s covenant promises.

    • Slow. Clap.

      The “David faced his giant and now it’s time to face yours!” rhetoric is exactly what came to mind when I read this. Now it seems like a trope to put the David-and-Goliath account in a Biblical covenant context. But I still recall when I first heard of this seeming radical notion — in fact, I was in a Sunday school-type gathering in the large single room of my then-startup church, and happened to overhear the other group in the corner listening to a sermon-on-CD in which the pastor mentioned that the David and Goliath account isn’t primarily a how-to about you, but a how-did about God.

  6. Kirsty says:

    I guess the problem is that so often these are the stories that we learn first as children. And the plot of Esther is exciting, and the theme is a good one for children – if it wasn’t for the slightly less appropriate  details…  So as children we are told that the king held a ‘beauty contest’ to choose the queen, and this bowdlerised version becomes stuck in our heads.


    But you don’t need to be inaccurate to be child-friendly. For example, when we did the story recently at Sunday School I said that the girls took turns to go and see the king, and he chose the one he liked best. That’s perfectly true – I just didn’t mention what they did when they were with the king! So there’s nothing false to unlearn.

  7. Kirsty says:

    Other misunderstood stories:


    The Sunday School material I use persists in making the story of David sparing Saul’s life about loving your enemies. Really? In that case why did he kill Goliath? The reason David himself gives is that he must not kill the Lord’s anointed.


    Another one is the virgin birth. I know this is controversial. But surely the main point of the virgin birth was that it showed that Jesus’ Father was God. Not that sex is sinful and therefore his mother had to be a pure virgin and remain so (pointlessly) for the rest of her life despite being married.


    Speaking of which – telling kids that ‘Mary wondered how she could have a baby when she wasn’t married’ is just plain silly. The children are likely to be very aware you don’t to be married to have a baby – in fact it may be genuinely confusing for some, especially if their own parents are unmarried. When a leader in our club said something similar, the kids scornfully said, “You don’t need to be married to have a baby!” For my young Sunday School kids I just omit that bit altogether – The angel says she will have a special baby who will be God’s Son; Mary wonders how this can happen; the angel says by the power of the Holy Spirit. For older kids I’d probably say something like “Mary was very surprised. She knew a woman can’t have a baby on her own – it needs a father. But it wasn’t Joseph’s baby. How could this happen?” They can then interpret this according to the knowledge they have.

  8. Matthias M. Hoefler says:

    I would dispute much of what you wrote, but your heart is in the right place. If I had to think of misunderstood (whether by laziness or reading too much of self into it or simply not entering into the text fully for other reasons) stories, I’d go with the gospels. Though in this case my surmise is they are misunderstood because bits and pieces are taken out and magnified, and the troubling parts forgotten. If they’re read at all.

    I can add from my own experience if I do not understand what an author is doing, I may not value it. I wrote Jhumpa Lahiri off until I read an article suggesting the story collection of hers I’d read was putting forward the experiences of immigrants and the (in many cases) hybridized first generation Indians in the U.S. Then I got it. At least, one aspect of what she was going for.

    I’ve answered your question. My question to you would be, “What do you make of Esther?” If it’s not about romantic love (I’ll give you that), what’s it about?

What do you think?