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Bloomsday Bonus! James Joyce's Children's Book: The Cat and the Devil

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james joyce childrens bookBloomsday brings to mind Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus, Molly Bloom, lemon-scented soap, James Joyce himself, and the varied occupants of Joyce’s Dublin. Yet for me, as a relatively new mother, it evokes another side of James Joyce. No, not Joyce as a parent. His story is tragic in that department: His son turned out to be an alcoholic and his daughter, Lucia Joyce (who died in 1982), was diagnosed with schizophrenia and famously became a patient of Carl Jung’s in the 1930s.

What makes me smile is Joyce’s one-time foray into children’s literature. In 1936, he wrote a story for his grandson, Stephen (Bloomsday’s Ulysses fans will recognize that name!), which was then published as a picture book.

The story involves a town on a river, with no bridges to span it. The townspeople are weary of having to cross the water by boat, so the sympathetic mayor agrees to a pact with the devil. The terms of the pact? The town will get a bridge by the next day, and the devil gets the soul of the first person to cross that bridge. Enter the cat.

It’s a charming story and shows a side of Joyce rarely witnessed in his adult works. As for grandson Stephen, today he’s a controversial figure for his fierce guarding of the James Joyce literary estate. But it’s Bloomsday, a day for celebration, not controversy, so I’ll leave you with one mom-themed James Joyce quote, an awesome testament to motherhood, in his era as well as ours:

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not.” 


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