I love many types of children’s (and youth) literature. Usually, I am most fond of the books that make me laugh.
However, every once in a while, I read a children’s book that intrigues me beyond words— so much that I keep coming back to the story to “chew” on it and ponder its meaning.
Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt, is one of those books.
Maybe you’ve read the book and/or seen the movie. (For the record, I have never seen the movie, but I have no desire to do so.) Assuming you haven’t, though, here is the basic plotline:
Winnie is a young girl who leads a somewhat boring life in a household full of adults, in a tiny old town. One day, she stumbles across a strange family (consisting of a father, mother, and their two teenage sons) by a stream in the woods near her home. The family immediately kidnaps her and whisks her away to a little house hidden away among the trees. And it is there that the Tuck family members tell her their story, and their terrible secret. Decades earlier, the Tucks had come to the area as new settlers, and stopped one day to take a drink from the stream running through the woods. Little did they know, however, that this stream had immortal powers. And so, as the years went by, the Tucks realized that not only were they strangely immune to otherwise fatal accidents, they were not even aging!
And so, the Tucks explain to Winnie, they must keep the stream–and its effects— deadly secret. For the Tucks— a simple, sweet-hearted family– realize the horrible potential of this stream; if it were to fall into the hands of evil men, the world would be overturned and utterly hopeless.
I won’t spoil the end of the story, but Tuck Everlasting‘s premise is chilling when we ponder it thoroughly: What would it be like to live forever in a world of sin? It would be, literally, hell on earth. We would be forever at the mercy of wicked human beings who could not die–and we ourselves would be trapped in sin and misery with no hope of escape.
Whether Natalie Babbitt realized it or not, her story drives us to think on God’s mercy. Let’s think back to Genesis, starting in Chapter 2, verse 9. The text mentions that God made “every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” And then we’re told, more specifically, that “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Later, in verses 16-17, God tells Adam, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
As long as Adam and Eve remained sinless human beings, they could eat from the Tree of Life, for it was a wellspring of eternal life. But when they ate the fruit and sinned, the Tree of Life became a curse for them.
The Lord drove them from the Garden of Eden shortly afterwards, but, as heartbreaking as this was for all involved, it was ultimately a display of God’s great mercy. See Genesis 3:22-24:
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
In short, God, in His everlasting mercy, was preventing the now-sinful human race from becoming like the Tucks—from eating of the Tree of Life and cursing themselves to live in death forever. He had already made the promise of a coming Seed at that point, and so now Adam and Eve had hope….a hope that death and misery could not possibly last forever.
So, hopefully it’s clear why I love Tuck Everlasting. By showing what life could have been like at the dawn of time, if not for the Lord’s incredible mercy, this story only drives me to the Cross anew.