THE SPHINX AT DAWN by Madeleine L'Engle


Two Stories
by & illustrated by
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"It is yours, my son," says the father, referring to the gold, the jeweled boxes of incense, and the oil in crystal bottles--which, says the father, three wise men left for the boy Jehoshua when Yos was a baby. But Yos' mean friend Pakko, the rich man's son, covets his treasure; and when it disappears Yos knows who took it. So Yos goes off to the desert on Pakko's camel, which turns out to be a repository of wisdom, adages, and legends. The camel tells Yos to beware of Greeks bearing gifts (but "they weren't Greeks," says the boy); tells the Trojan horse story with a camel in the horse's role; evokes Pandora's box (but without the Greek story's coherence) by revealing that the wise mens' gifts are Greed, Covetousness, and Resentment; and, pronouncing "There is something about gifts you must learn, Yos," summons two Biblical men-of-God, who are "Pakko but not Pakko," to tell their stories. Thus enlightened, Yos returns to town in time to raise Pakko from the dead (the boy has died suddenly in the night) and, a far harder task, dispel "that other death" by allowing Pakko to return the treasure. The major message seems to be that this is very holy and significant stuff. A second, equally cloying story again takes boy and camel to the desert, this time to banter with the Sphinx and answer her riddles. The last riddle the boy answers with a kiss. In the course of the conversation the Sphinx moves from arrogance to recognition of the boy's majesty--though the Prince says "I am an ordinary boy." He is, however, an ordinary boy who claims friendship with a unicorn--a touch that says more about L'Engle's scheme of things than Christ's.
Pub Date: July 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0062505025
Page count: 46pp
Publisher: Seabury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1982


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