Hello. My name is P.L. Travers
. As you may or may not know, you're living, as a child
under seven, a somewhat privileged existence: your time is your own, and no one will believe you even if you talk about what you read (or have read to you) here. So I can speak to you without reservations.
Now then. Pretty soon you'll be going to school, and learn Greek, Latin, and about two thousand years of British history, as well as a lot of other things that aren't quite as important as people seem to think. I'm about to give you an advantage in all these things, and a few things that are quite a lot more important than people seem to think. So listen carefully. We don't have much time.
What you're going to read (or have read to you, it makes no difference) is a series of stories about some children very much like you, who lived some time before you were born, with their nanny in London. How long ago, whether you're familiar with London or have had a family with a nanny or servants, none of this makes any difference, since it's just a bit of camoflage, or masquerade: it will make the adults who read this to you (or read this before giving it to you) confident that nothing of any value is being said here; this is just a book of funny little stories about old-fashioned children in a faraway city who have a lot of nonsensical adventures.
Don't be fooled. Once upon a time, whenever people gathered together, they exchanged songs and tales of wonder about Kings and Gods and Heroes. Fact and make-believe were not as separate as they are now, and sometimes people would change details in stories to make a point, or to express how they felt when they heard the story told to them, and sometimes the stories became quite strange-sounding indeed. Over time, these stories were written down, and their details became fixed, and they didn't change after that. But something curious happened. These tales, originally so wonderful and full of meaning, lost their color and freshness, the way flowers and butterflies do when they die. And people began to wonder where all the Gods and Heroes, the Giants and Fairies and the like went, that they never seemed to act in our world anymore. And so, the stories remained, and since it's important to know them in order to understand the way things are now, they are taught, drained of all life and magic, to children a little older than yourselves, along with some of the languages in which they were told.
What you're going to read about is a world very like that of the story-tellers, set near enough to our times so you can follow it readily. You'll read about heroes, and Gods, and quite a few other strange people and things: some of them are the Gods and heroes of the stories, and some of them are quite made-up. But what is worth noting and thinking about, is that these stories will make you feel the same way the older stories did to the old tale-spinners, so when you read the old stories, you'll feel that way too, and understand them better. I'll also add a few hints and bits of advice that might also help you, and anything else I can think of that might prove useful.
Now run along and play. And don't tell the grown-ups.Spit-spot!