The Moon, The Crab, Symbols and Art

A rambling post for Friday.

In our homeschooling, the Littles just finished learning all about the moon.  They learned about eclispes, and walking on the moon, phases of the moon and how the moon causes our tides.

And then today, in a perfectly serendipitous happening, we read Rudyard Kipling’s story of The Crab that Played with the Sea, which is a beautiful story about how each animal came to be and behave and learn to play exactly in just the right way, except for the Crab, who wandered off before learning to play just the right way, and caused the tides to cause all sorts of trouble for the Man until the Eldest Magician righted things and gave the Moon the ability to control the tides of the sea.

This is one of my favorite things about homeschooling – this week we read a chapter in a science book about the moon and how it controls the tides, but it is the story that they will remember, giving them a creative vision to go along with the scientific learning.

There are a lot of days that this homeschooling journey can be overwhelming, but then a morning like this morning happens, and I see their faces light up with understanding and joy at a beautifully written story.  Then they run outside to play “catch the sweater” (they just made it up this morning, I have no idea what the rules or the purpose might be) and giggle together just outside the kitchen window, and I get to dive into my own bit of learning – in several of Rudyard Kipling’s illustrations and on the bindings of some of his books published long ago, I’ve seen a swastika symbol and wanted to know why.

As it turns out, the symbol was originally a Hindu good luck symbol and Kipling included it in many of his illustrations, even using it on his covers and book bindings.  But after the Nazis came to power and began using it as their own symbol, Rudyard Kipling ordered that it be removed from all of his books.  Apparently, it was removed for a time, but new editions have returned to the original plates and are published with the swastika symbol.

All of this has left me to ponder art and intentions and the requests of the creator.  If an artist asks that something not be published or be removed from the original, who gets to decide whether that request is honored and for how long?  I wonder how Rudyard Kipling would feel if he were alive today and knew his works were being published with the original symbol that he requested to be removed.

What do you think?

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