Friday, October 22, 2010

"The Halloween Tree" Chapter 10

While reading Chapter 10, I was astounded by all that occurred!  The chapter seemed to go on and on, with one event leading into the next, and I thought to myself, "Wow, this is a long chapter."

Long?  This chapter had eight pages.  That's it.  I worry about my literary mind if eight pages seems to be a lot to me.  But it wasn't like I was bored and wanted it to be over, I just kept expecting to be cut off and left in suspense.  With the first few chapters being about three pages each, I've gotten used to that short length and these "lengthy" chapters are like a special treat that I'm unaccustomed to!

Now, back to the story.  Although they've been hearing Moundshroud's voice this whole time, the boys haven't actually seen him since he disappeared into the tomb.
"Quick, now, come find me!"  Moundshroud's voice, laughing, called them on.
So they run along the trail of mummy wrappings that led them down there in the first place, and finally they find the source of it, which is of course, a mummy.  But not just any mummy.  It's Mr. Moundshroud all wrapped up from head to toe.  He asks if one of them is dressed as a mummy, and Ralph steps forward.  He asks Ralph to unwrap him, and he does.
"Thanks, lad!  Free!  No fun being wrapped like some old funeral gift for the Land of the Dead.  But--hist!  Quick, boys, hop in the niches, stand stiff.  Someone's coming.  Play mummies, boys, play dead!"
They all hide just in time as a funeral procession walks solemnly past.  Several are carrying small toys and bowls of food, while some of the stronger ones carry a mummy case on their shoulders.  Ralph looks at the wrapped mummy, and realizes that it's about the same size as he is.  The size of a twelve-year-old boy.
"Pipkin!" cried everyone, hoarsely.
No, no, no, no, no! thought Tom.
"Yes!" cried a mouse voice, tiny, lost, wrapped away, kept, trapped, wild.  "It's me!  I'm here.  Under the mask.  Under the wrappings.  Can't move!  Can't yell.  Can't fight free...  Follow!  Meet me!  Find me at--"

"Follow you where, Pipkin?" Tom Skelton jumped down from his niche and yelled into the dark.  "Meet you
 But Moundshroud hushes Tom, and tells him he must wait.  He promises they will save Pipkin... just not yet.  Tom is truly worried at this point in the story.  His love for his friend is admirable, and his sense of urgency shows bravery.

Ralph looks at his wrappings, wondering aloud why he is dressed like a mummy.
"You are a mummy, boy, because that was how they dressed for Eternity.  Spun up in a cocoon of threads, they hoped to come forth like lovely butterflies in some far dear loving world.  Know your cocoon, boy.  Touch the strange stuffs."
"Why," said Ralph the Mummy, blinking at the smoky walls and old hieroglyphs.  "
Every day was Halloween to them!"
Mr. Moundshroud agrees, and points out that every day was Halloween to the prehistoric cavemen as well.  To illuminate his point, by some strange magic, a green light reveals some ancient cave-drawings on the wall before them, animating a scene before their very eyes.
Lightning struck.
Saber-toothed tigers caught the cavemen screaming.  Tar-pits drowned their bones.  They sank, wailing.
Lightning struck to burn forests.  One apeman, running, seized a burning branch and rammed it in a saber-tooth's jaws.  The tiger shrieked and fell away.  The apeman, snorting in triumph, tossed the fiery branch into a pile of autumn leaves in his cave.  Other men came to hold their hands out to the fire, laughing at the night where the yellow beast eyes waited, afraid.
Tom asks what any of this has to do with Halloween, and Moundshroud is shocked at the question.  It's so obvious to him, and he explains:
"When you and your friends die every day, there's no time to think of Death, is there?  Only time to run.  But when you stop running at long last--"
He touched the walls.  The apemen froze in mid-flight.
"--now you have time to think of where you came from, where you're going... Winter came on like a great white beast shaking its fur, burying him.  Would spring ever come back to the world?  Would the sun be reborn next year or stay murdered?  Egyptians asked it.  Cavemen asked it a million years before. 
Will the sun rise tomorrow morning? ... Halloween, indeed!  A million years ago, in a cave in autumn, with ghosts inside heads, and the sun lost."
With the teaching moment over, Moundshroud urges them on.  They walk back out of the catacombs and see before them an old pyramid.  Moundshroud says the last one to the top is a monkey's uncle and all the boys race ahead.  Tom is last and our chapter is finished.

Wasn't this chapter amazing?  I thought it was going to end after they discovered Pipkin was being buried in the tomb, but I was wrong.  It went on to talk about the cavemen too, and how even their primitive notions of death helped to shape what is Halloween.  I always knew Halloween celebrated the dead, but I always understood it how our mainstream society presents it ... as something scary and evil.  But I'm starting to realize that Halloween is based on the very human fear of death.  What lies ahead?  Is there a life after this one?

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