IV. Mary Poppins
When I was in Hollywood the [script] writer said, surely Mary Poppins symbolises the magic that lies behind everyday life. I said no, of course not, she is everyday life, which is composed of the concrete and the magic. (Travers qtd. in Lawson 161)
Mary Poppins, a character that has by now reached iconic status and whose name usually evokes the image of a flying nanny with a parrot-headed umbrella and a carpet handbag, as a literary figure first appears in P. L. Travers’s work Mary Poppins.
As Neil Gaiman points out in his foreword to Georgia Grilli’s insightful work Myth, Meaning and Symbol in Mary Poppins, the nanny is a “natural phenomenon”, anancientfigure “on first name terms with the primal powers of the universe”. Her lessons are true and “beneath truth”, and there is always more to Mary Poppins than meets the eye, a notion that Walt Disney failed to convey in his musical adaptation of the books in 1964.
Walt Disney’s adaptation of Travers’s books has been regarded as superficial and shallow by many, as the musical seems to drain the character of its essence which is, in fact, far from the notorious “spoonful of sugar”, but rather disturbing, fascinating, ambiguous and most of all, obscure (cf. Grilli 2). As Caitlin Flanagan argues: “Mary Poppins, already beloved for what she was–plain, vain and incorruptible–[was] transmogrified into a soubrette” (qtd. in Grilli 2). In fact, the original...
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