How clever of the incredibly prolific JK Rowling to come up with a Christmas story that celebrates the bond between a child and a comforter.
Research by child psychologists at Bristol and Yale has shown that up to 70 percent of young children develop an attachment to an object such as a toy or blanket.
The phenomenon is more common in the West, where children usually sleep separately from their parents at a young age. Apparently children anthropomorphize the object and look at it as if it has feelings. They know it is not alive, but believe in it as if it is.
Jack, the hero of JK Rowling’s book The Christmas Pig, has a habit of hiding his pig and not remembering where he put it. Enter No. 2, an identical pig that is kept for when No. 1 cannot be found.
Studies by child psychologists at Bristol and Yale have shown that up to 70 percent of young children develop an attachment to an object such as a toy or blanket (file image)
The gist of the story is what it means to be a substitute or understudy – not the one who is held above reason, but the one who has to work hard to please the child?
It was inspired, JK says, by the day her son, David, then a toddler, found a pristine pig in a closet. It was bought as a backup in case he lost the original.
It is unusual for her to reveal anything about her children. Like so many writers, she has made sure that their privacy is protected. But there are, I hope, times when it’s good to include them in a personal story that happened a long time ago and that will resonate with so many parents.
David, she revealed this week, ended up with two terry pigs, but the first remained his favourite; the one he couldn’t sleep without.
How to explain which toy will become the chosen one? No idea. I still find it curious that my oldest son, Ed, chose the cheapest, dirtiest creature as his constant companion, rather than one of his much more elegant stuffed animals.
She was known as Skinny Lizzie. She was about eight inches tall, homemade and bought at a Christmas market.
She was the first thing I saw on the toy table. Her body, legs and arms were made of wool, her head was stuffed with cotton wool and she had yellow woolen braids. Her dress was gingham brown and white checked. She had big eyes and a sweet smile.
Jenni Murray (pictured) said the teddy bear she got at birth slept in her crib and accompanied her everywhere
I’ll never understand why Ed’s face lit up as soon as he saw her. It was love at first sight and they never broke up. She went everywhere with us and he couldn’t sleep unless Lizzie was with him.
Keeping her clean was a bit of an ordeal. A neighbor came up with the idea of a stand-in for when Lizzie No. 1 was wet. She was more or less accepted, but there was always a sigh of relief when the original was returned.
Ed could be quite cruel to Lizzie, throwing her in the air and not remembering where she had landed. She never seemed to mind, even when she spent two weeks in the microwave – I should have cleaned the kitchen better – and the replacement took over. Later on, No. 1 Lizzie quickly established herself as the undisputed favorite.
Long, long ago, during my early teens, there were two choices when it came to being a pop fan. Whether you loved Elvis or Cliff Richard. I was Elvis, my best friend was Cliff and that’s why we had to see all their movies. Judging by the pictures of Cliff embarking on his last tour at the age of 80, my friend supported the right one.
Ed grew out of his obsession and I have no idea what happened to one of the Skinny Lizzies.
However, I do remember my own comforter – a more conventional choice. Teddy was the first gift my godfather gave me at birth. He slept in my bed and accompanied me everywhere.
I doubt Ed remembers Lizzie now that he’s a grown man. But Teddy is another matter.
He lives in my bedroom. He became my companion 71 years ago. He came to college and I have occasionally heard chat with him.
Could his abiding presence be the result of my being an only child? All I know is that he’s the only one who still knew me when I was little.
The new Adele is no longer someone like me
Jenni said Adele (pictured) looks beautiful, but she hopes no one thinks they can achieve a similar result with just exercise
Adele, pictured, on the cover of Vogue magazine
You may not agree with this, but I am disappointed in Adele’s extreme makeover.
Yes, she looks beautiful, but only in that rather over the top, overly posed way we’ve come to expect from glamorous ‘influencers’. What we loved about her was her amazing voice, songwriting talent and the fact that she was a bit like the rest of us – pretty, chubby and a little swearing.
Well done with the weight loss, but I hope no one thinks they can achieve a similar result with exercise alone. How many of us have the time or money to obsessively work with a trainer three times a day — morning, afternoon, and night?
- When I bought toys for my boys at Christmas, I was disgusted for years at the way they were displayed. The boys’ toy department has always been black, mechanical and industrial; the girls’ one was pink and full of dolls, fake vacuum cleaners and stoves.
Three cheers for Lego, which has promised to end gender stereotyping in its products. It’s a start.
Toys should just be toys. That’s all!
Police must act now to stop protesters
I have watched in horror as Sussex University Professor Kathleen Stock has been physically threatened by student trans activists for daring to express what most of us know is a fact: it is possible to change the gender you identifies, but you cannot change your biological gender. There are two genders: male and female. For this, she has been branded as transphobic.
Despite the support of her vice-chancellor, who defended her right to free speech, she does not have the support of the teachers’ union, which “expressed solidarity with all trans and non-binary members of our community.” She now fears that her career at university has effectively ended.
All of us who have expressed gender-critical beliefs have been abused online, but something much more terrifying is happening here. Professor Stock says police suggested she hire bodyguards or teach at home alone. She shouldn’t have to. It’s the mean students who need to be stopped.
Threats are now moving from the internet to the street. On Sunday, Jeremy Vine’s home became the target of anti-vaxx protesters who disagreed with the BBC’s support for vaccination, and handed his wife an ‘anti-vaxx warrant’. Chris Packham had dead animals left at his gate by people who disagreed with his opposition to blood sports, and a Land Rover was set on fire outside his house. It’s madness. There is a right to freedom of expression and to protest. But there is no right to threaten violence. The police need to arrest these thugs for intimidation, whether they are students, hunters or who stupidly think vaccination is a bad idea. And we must stand with those who are being silenced and protect them.