Mary Poppins is one of my most beloved literary characters. If you have only seen the movie, you know nothing of Mary Poppins. I read this week in a New Yorker story that Mary Poppins' creator, P. L. Travers, wept during the premiere of the Disney movie and I'm not surprised. The real Mary Poppins is nothing like the Julie Andrews freak, (a soubrette as Travers said years later) and she doesn't have a boyfriend. While everyone this week is finding christianity in Narnia, you can find overt paganism all the way through the Mary Poppins novels. Take this scene for example from Mary Poppins Comes Back.
A newborn baby at the Banks' household holds a conversation with two birds:
"Good girl!" croaked the Starling approvingly. He cocked his head on one side and gazed at her with his round bright eye. "I hope," he remarked politely, "you are not too tired after your journey."
Annabel shook her head.
"Where has she come from--out of an egg?" cheeped the Fledgling suddenly.
"Huh-huh!" scoffed Mary Poppins. "Do you think she's a sparrer?"
The Starling gave her a pained and haughty look.
"Well, what is she then? And where did she come from?" cried the Fledgling shrilly, flapping his short wings and staring down at the cradle.
"You tell him, Annabel!" the Starling croaked.
Annabel moved her hands inside the blanket.
"I am earth and air and fire and water," she said softly. "I come from the Dark where all things have their beginning."
"Ah, such a dark!" said the Starling softly, bending his head to his breast.
"It was dark in the egg, too," the Fledging cheeped.
"I come from the sea and its tide," Annabel went on. "I come from the sky and its stars. I come from the sun and its brightness-- --"
"Ah, so bright!" said the Starling, nodding.
"And I come from the forests of earth."
As if in a dream, Mary Poppins rocked the cradle--to-and-fro, to-and-fro with a steady swinging movement.
"Yes?" whispered the Fledgling.
"Slowly I moved at first," said Annabel, "always sleeping and dreaming. I remembered all that I had been and I thought of all I shall be. And when I had dreamed by dream I awoke and came swiftly."
She paused for a moment, her blue eyes full of memories.
"And then?" prompted the Fledgling.
"I heard the stars singing as I came and I felt warm wings about me. I passed the beasts of the jungle and came through the dark, deep waters. It was a long journey."
Annabel was silent.
The Fledgling stared at her with his bright inquisitive eyes.
Mary Poppins' hand lay quietly on the side of the cradle. She had stopped rocking.
"A long journey indeed!" said the Starling softly, lifting his head from his breast. "And, ah, so soon forgotten!"
Annabel stirred under the quilt.
"No!" she said confidently. "I'll never forget."
"Stuff and Nonsense, Beaks and Claws, of course you will! By the time the week's out you won't remember a word of it--what you are or where you came from!"
Inside her flannel petticoat Annabel was kicking furiously.
"I will! I will! How could I forget?"
"Because they call do!" jeered the Starling harshly. "Every silly human except--" he nodded his head at Mary Poppins--"her! She's Different, she's the Oddity, she's the Misfit-- --"
"You Sparrer!" cried Mary Poppins, making a dart at him....
"I don't believe you! I won't believe you!, cried Annabel wildly.
The most important of A.E.ís introductions, however, was not professional. He had a hunch that Travers would take a liking to another single girl living in London, Madge Burnand, the daughter of one of his friends, the former editor of Punch. The two women hit it off immediately. In 1931, they set up housekeeping in a cottage in Sussex. Madge did the cooking, while Pamela wrote poems for the Irish Statesman, and essays for the New English Weekly, where she later served on the board with T. S. Eliot. It was there, in the winter of 1933, that she succumbed to a bout of pleurisy, took to her bed, and began to write.
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