Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my mom and I watched The Man Who Invented Christmas. It’s the mostly made-up origin story of how Charles Dickens (played by the delightful Dan Stevens) came to write A Christmas Carol. It was especially fun to see how his characters physically showed up when he learned their names. “Scrooge,” he finally says, after fumbling around with “Scratch” and “Scrounger,” and then suddenly an old, ornery man appears in his room who continues to follow him around for the rest of the movie, yelling at him.
When I was going through a particularly hard time a few years ago, a friend encouraged me with a story from Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. As a child, Corrie was having a difficult time dealing with the fact that her father would die one day. She and her father had this dialogue:
“On a scale of one to ten, what level is the pain?” the doctor in the emergency room asks me.
“Six?” I say. No, it’s more than that, I think to myself. At least a seven. But it’s not a hot pain, like when I sprained my ankle, or a burning pain, like the time I was stung by a hundred yellow jackets. No, it’s a dull pain that started in the morning and has lasted all day. I didn’t even know I was in pain until I started throwing up. Then I was dizzy and couldn’t talk.
In Ursula Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan, Tenar is taken as a little girl from her village because she is believed to be the reincarnation of the high priestess of the Tombs to the Nameless Ones. She goes through a symbolic ritual where she is almost beheaded but is spared at the last minute, so it is said that Tenar has died and Arha, which means the “eaten one,” lives on.