Monday, February 24, 2014

Divine Comedy for Kids

One of the first steps in making any movie is to create a storyboard.  Do you know what that is?  No?  It’s a way that Disney storytellers figure out how to tell their story.  It’s kind of like an outline made with pictures – a map of the story. 

So, in this activity, we are going to make a storyboard. The first step is to know the story you want to tell.  For Disney storytellers, they use a lot of different sources for their stories. For example, Mulan is based on a Chinese legend.  Cinderella is based on a story called Cendrillon. Pocohontas is loosely based on real people from history.

Do you want to know the story you guys are going to base your storyboard on? 

It’s a very famous story that was written as a poem.  It is called The Divine Comedy and it was written in the Middle Ages by a man named Dante Aligheri.

In the story, Dante tells about a dream he had about what happens after we die.  You guys all know that God wants us to be good so that we can be with him forever in heaven, right?  Well, Dante tells the story of what happens to people who are super bad on purpose, people who tried hard to be good but didn’t always succeed 100%, and people who were so good in this life that they went straight to heaven. 

It’s important to remember that this story is just made up – it talks about real places like heaven, hell, and purgatory, but no one really knows what those places are like.  So this is just story, not like a newspaper account.  

So, are you ready to hear?  As I’m telling you this story, I want to you use your imaginations to figure out what the different scenes might look like and try to remember what you imagine for later… Okay?

A long time ago, a man named Dante fell asleep and had a wonderful but mysterious dream.  Dante was very sad because he had been sent away from his home as a punishment for not supporting the king.  He was very lonely and poor and he missed his family.  He also really missed a girl that he used to love.  Her name was Beatrice and she had died at a young age.  Dante thought about her a lot and missed her very much. 

In his dream, Dante was walking in a dark and scary forest. There was no path for him to follow.  Finally, after struggling and pushing his way through thorns and tripping over roots and stones, Dante finally came to the edge of the forest. He was at the bottom of a high mountain and the sun was shining down.  He wanted to climb to the top very badly so he started to climb. 
But, uh oh, guess what?  He had not climbed very far when he saw a beautiful leopard.  No matter which way he turned, the leopard was there, preventing him from climbing up any higher.  Once again he tried.  This time, a scary lion was blocking his path and stopping him from going forward.  Next, he saw a thin grey mother wolf  right behind the lion. Together, the animals forced Dante back to the edge of the woods.  He was very sad.  he didn’t think he’d ever reach the sunlight.

All of a sudden, Dante saw a man walking toward him.  He said his name was Virgil, a famous poet from ancient Rome.  Dante was very happy because he had read and loved Virgil’s poetry so he was not afraid.  Virgil would be his guide out of the dark woods on a path that led through Inferno (hell), Purgatorio (purgatory), and finally to Paradiso (heaven).

Dante followed Virgil to a huge gate, the gate of hell.  It had words written at the top, “Abandon hope, all you who enter here.”  Dante was afraid and didn’t want to go through, but Virgil told him that, no matter what he saw, nothing there could hurt him and that he just had to trust in God  So, Dante had courage and followed Virgil.  He saw many sad things there, people who had done things which told God that they didn’t want to be with him – things like hurting other people or themselves, being greedy or violent, or being liars or traitors to their country.  The worst was at the very center of hell, which Dante described as being covered in ice. Here were the two most terrible traitors – Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, and Lucifer, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven.  Dante saw that they were covered in ice because they were so far away from God’s love.  And boy, was he happy to get out of there!

Next, Virgil took Dante to the bottom of a very tall mountain.  The mountain spiraled up and up, wide at the bottom, narrow at the top.  Dante saw a large group of people walking around the mountain from one level to another.  The mountain was the mount of Purgatory, where the souls who had tried very hard in their lives to follow God’s laws and to love him, one another, and themselves were journeying closer and closer to God.  Remember that the gates of hell had the words “Abandon hope, all you who enter here”?  Well, in Purgatory, it was the exact opposite.  Purgatory was all about hope – because everyone was getting closer and closer to God.  As they moved through Purgatory, they would be cleansed of everything that was not good or beautiful, everything that was not like God.    

In all the spirits of people moving up the mountain, Dante recognized kings, noblemen, artists, and poor people. The thing they all had in common was that, as they made their way up the mountain, they were cleansed of all the sins like pride, or jealousy, or rage, or greed.  The two friends made their way up and up and up to the very top of Mount Purgatory.

Finally, they came to the very edge of Paradiso, or heaven.  Here, Dante met his beloved lady, Beatrice, and she was so beautiful and good that he cried with happiness.  But his tears soon changed because he remembered that, after she had died, he had not always been a good person.  As he remembered the bad things he had done, he was ashamed.  Beatrice told him to go and wash himself in the waters of the river Lethe.  He had already been cleansed of these bad things in Purgatory, the river would make him forget about his sins like God forgets ours when we repent.  Then he washed in the river Eunce and could only remember the good things he had done on earth.  Now Dante was ready to enter Paradiso.

Paradiso was really hard for Dante to describe – it was so beautiful and wonderful that human words are not really enough to talk about it.  But, the important thing to remember is that everything pointed toward God.  Everyone who was there was totally focused on God and his wonderful beauty and goodness.  That’s all they could think about, so that even when Dante was talking to them, they were kind of looking past him, looking towards God who is the center of everything.  Dante, with Beatrice leading him now, moved closer and closer to God, until finally he reached the very center of Paradiso. 

And here, it got really hard for Dante to describe what he saw because it was so wonderful.  So, he used a metaphor (or a comparison) to try to tell what he had seen.  He said that he saw three different colored circles deep in the center of a beautiful light.  Beams of different colored light shined out from them just like light shines through a prism.  And that light was God.  It was love, the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.

The End.

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