Yesterday's NYTimes reports that it's the 75th anniversary of the first publication of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. This brief novel about a pacific bull was the first book that I knew and loved. It was The Book of my first few years on earth and I've probably read it, to myself and to my children, twenty times more than I've read King Lear and Hamlet combined. I've never tested myself, but I might be able to recite it from beginning to end with only an occasional prompt. I believe that several leaves from my 1942 codex are still the the family archives (and by archives, I mean those plastic boxes in the basement),
I did not know that "Ferdimam" (as the kids call it) was thought by many to be a subversive, unpatriotic allegory and that it had been banned by Franco and burned by Hitler. As a child, it never occured to me that Ferdinand was a pacifist -- I thought he was sensible.Why be killed in a bullfight when you can sit and smell the flowers?
It was the book's language that engaged me, especially the one sentence that was my first taste of pure, immortal, transcendent poetry: "Flags were flying, bands were playing... and all the lovely ladies had flowers in their hair." Not even Shakespeare ever composed a more glorious succession of iambs.