?The Little Girl Lost? And ?The Little Girl Found? Essay, Research Paper
“The Little Girl Lost”/ “The Little Girl Found”
V. Propp’s essay “Morphology of the Folktale” (Rivkin & Ryan, p. 28) is perfectly suitable when analyzing Blake’s poems, “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found.” Propp discusses the function of the dramatic personae and its applicability to stories that run their course in the form of a tale or a fairy tale. Blake’s combined poems (Songs 34, 35, 36) follow this pattern. However, Blake offers a surprise. The figure that is expected to be the villain (according to Propp’s terminology) turns out to be a gentle and benevolent hero.
According to Propp (Rivkin & Ryan, 1998), the functions of the dramatic personae are the basic components of the tale that must be extracted. When a tale is studied in this way, a morphology results. Morphology refers to “a description of the tale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole” (Rivkin & Ryan, 1998). In order to fully analyze a work, more specifically a tale, in this manner a series of functions should be observed.
Propp (Rivkin & Ryan, 1998) explains that a tale usually begins with some sort of initial situation. In the case of “The Little Girl Lost” the initial situation is that Lovely Lyca (“seven summers old”) lays outside on a day that is agreeable and pleasant. The first function of the dramatis personae is absentation where one of the members of the family leaves the home. It is Lovely Lyca who “had wandered long, Hearing wild bird’s song.” Lovely Lyca’s parents do not know where she is and so they weep for her.
The second function of the dramatis personae is referred to as the interdiction and this interdiction is addressed to the hero. It is often expressed as a warning and it conveys to the reader that the hero may be in imminent danger. Lines 29 through 32 of “The Little Girl Lost” contain the pivotal point of interdiction where the tension mounts and it is apparent that Lyca is in trouble. Blake writes, “Frowning frowning night, O’er this desart bright, Let thy moon arise, While I close my eyes.” However, Lyca mustn’t close her eyes. She should leave the area as soon as possible because the beasts of prey come out in the evening.
The third function is called violation and it occurs when the interdiction has been violated. Lyca does close her eyes and “Sleeping Lyca lay; While the beasts of prey, Come from caverns deep, View’d the maid asleep.” It is at the juncture that the villain usually appears. In “The Little Girl Lost” the lion is presumed to be the villain. “The kingly lion stood, And the virgin view’d, Then he gambold round, O’ver the hallowed ground” shows who the villain is and that he is potentially an immediate threat to the hero.
The fourth function of the dramatis personae is called the reconnaissance. The villain tries to determine where to bring the victim. The lion watches Lyca while the leopards and tigers play around her. The fifth function is referred to as delivery and it is when the villain gets his or her answer. The lion gets his answer from the lioness in lines 49 through 51. The lines read, “While the lioness, Loos’d her slender dress, And naked they convey’d, To caves the sleeping maid.” The lion and the lioness are going to bring Lyca to their cave.
The sixth function is called trickery and it is used by the villain to take possession of the hero or the hero’s belongings. The lion licks the neck and bosom of the child in a seemingly benevolent manner, but is he going to be gentle with her or is he going to eat her? This is where the pattern breaks. [Note: Propp’s functions continue until function thirty, but Rivkin & Ryan, 1998 discuss only the first six in detail. (p. 31)].
“The Little Girl Found” begins after the lion and the lioness take young Lyca into their cave. The perspective changes to that of Lyca’s parents. The parents search for their lost daughter, believing that she is “Starv’d in the desart wild.” The parents continue their search for more than a week until the mother can go no further. The father assists her when “Till before their way, A couching lion lay.” The parents encounter the lion for the first time. It’s too late to turn back and so the lion circles them in a manner that appears to be menacingly. However, after they look into the lion’s eyes their worries subside. He licks their hands and leads then to Lyca. The lion was not the villain that he initially appeared to be. He protected the lost girl. The poem ends with the lines:
“To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lion’s growl.”
The assertion that Blake makes in this poem is that often one’s assumptions (perhaps regarding a person, animal or place) are not always valid. A reader of the poem can assume that the lion does not have good intentions. It can be presumed that the lion plans on eating the child after he and the lioness take the child into the cave. However, these presumptions would be incorrect. Blake tricks the reader by making the savior of the child a lion. Had the savior been an old woman or a sheep or a doe then the feeling of the poem would have been different and the impact less effective. Had such been the case then the outcome of the tale would have been predictable and the poem would have taken on a completely different meaning. That the savior was the lion, an animal that is expected to be ferocious and feral plays on the reader’s expectations for a bad ending.
In both “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found” poet William Blake used literal language to tell the story of Lovely Lyca, her parents and the big cats. It is told in the style of a folktale, as discussed by Propp (Rivkin & Ryan, 1998). One can apply Propp’s suggested technique of analyzing a tale, folktale or fairy tale to discern the morphology of the poems. However, Blake’s poems do break away from the expected pattern of functions with regard to the dramatis personae. All of the events leading up to the introduction of the lion and the lioness follow Propp’s pattern (functions one through six of the personae dramatis). The pattern then breaks away from what is expected. After Lyca’s parents exhaust themselves searching for their daughter the reader learns that the lion and the lioness, Lyca’s abductors, were actually protecting her. The supposed villain becomes the real hero of the story, making the poem surprising and enlightening, in that it teaches that one’s pre-judgements are not always valid.