‘The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell – as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.’
As I read aloud these lines to my kids at bedtime, a vivid picture gets created in my mind – of farm smells and horses, friendly cows and dilapidated yet sturdy barns. Ring a bell, anyone? These lines are from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, considered an all-time classic of children’s literature. I admit I still enjoy reading the book; perhaps even more so than when I was a kid. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that the kids seem to enjoy these farm pets more than the virtual pets they usually spend time on. Time and again I have turned the book’s pages, and the pictures are crystal clear in my mind, almost like a world in itself.
Image courtesy: Harper Collins
The Heart-Warming Story
The story is all about a rambunctious little pig called Wilbur who is born a runt. When Mr. Arable, the little girl Fern’s father decides to let the helpless little pig live (thanks to her), he becomes a lovable pet. As time passes, he again finds himself in danger. However, the hero of our story steps in and Charlotte’s twinkling spider web, which comes into notice first in the morning fog, saves the day for our dear Wilbur. This is a story about life and death, about how friends help each other in times of need, about how one is always sad to lose a good friend but needs to move on.
3 Fascinating Facts about Charlotte’s Web
- ‘This is a story of the barn. I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself.’
Not many know that the author E.B. White himself owned a farm in Maine where he reared geese, sheep and pigs. Hence, the farm envisioned in the book was as real as it can get, based on his actual farm with a red barn and a swing which found a place in the story as well.
- ‘At the present time, three of Charlotte’s granddaughters are trapping at the foot of the stairs in my barn cellar, where the morning light, coming through the east window, illuminates the embroidery and makes it seem even more wonderful than it is.’
The author was talking about the offspring of a spider in his barn which made an egg sac; Charlotte, the protagonist, actually took birth in the book from the idea of that real spider.
- ‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern.
The story begins with these lines from the little girl, Fern. It later came to light that Fern almost didn’t find her place in the book till much after most of the story was written! White contemplated for a long while how the story should begin – with Wilbur, with Charlotte or with someone else but nothing seemed to be working out. Along came Fern and the opening lines which have taken pride of place in one of the most widely read children’s books ever.
Why I Still Love It
I have no clue but Charlotte’s Web seems to have woven a web of magic over me, back from when I heard the story first. I’m fond of the way the geese speak, I laugh at the mishmash of eats Wilbur enjoys, I love the idea of how friendship blossoms between an innocent little pig and a clever, kind-hearted spider. I guess my love for the story finds an echo in others too; that’s why three films (watch the trailer here), a musical and even a video game have come up based on the story’s characters.
And last but not the least, I love it when Charlotte says this.
Image courtesy: QuotesGram