Thursday, April 19

Goodnight, Book

Image from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd.

One of my most favorite things in the world is reading a book and finding that it has a description of a character in bed and falling asleep. As I do most of my reading in bed, at bed time, I always take this as a cue to turn off the lights and snuggle into my own bed, all the while repeating the passage I've just read to myself over and over until I'm fast asleep.
Here are some memorable going-to-sleep passages that I've collected. I hope you read them in bed, and that they make you sleepy.

From The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Here, after being lost in the wilderness for an evening, Mole and Rat stumble upon the home Mole abandoned months before.
…Mole and Rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of the long day. At last the Rat, with a tremendous yawn, said, “Mole, old chap, I’m ready to drop. Sleepy is simply not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well, then, I’ll take this. What a ripping little house this is! Everything so handy!”

He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the blankets, and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swathe of barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine.


From We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The narrator, Merricat, is upset by the arrival of her cousin Charles, and escapes to the woods by her home.
I was held tight, wound round with wire, I couldn’t breathe, and I had to run. I threw the sweater on the floor and went out the door and down to the creek where I always went. Jonas found me after a while and we lay there together, protected from the rain by the trees crowding overhead, dim and rich in the kind of knowing, possessive way trees have of pressing closer. I looked back at the trees and listened to the soft sound of the water. … I fell asleep listening to Jonas, just as the shadows were coming down. Sometime during the night Jonas left me to go hunting, and I woke a little when he came back, pressing against me to get warm. “Jonas,” I said, and he purred comfortably.

From The Odyssey by Homer, translated by E.V. Rieu. After his ship and crew are decimated by angry Poseidon, Odysseus is forced to swim for several days before reaching a rocky coast that can only be accessed from the sea by a river.

… Not far from the river he found a copse in a clearing. Here he crept under a pair of bushes, one an olive, the other a wild olive, which grew from the same stem with their branches so closely intertwined that when the damp winds blew not a breath could enter, nor the rays of the sun penetrate their shade, nor the rain soak through. Odysseus crawled into his shelter, and at once heaped up the dry leaves into a wide bed – the ground was littered with piles of them, enough to provide covering for two or three men in the hardest winter weather. The noble long-suffering Odysseus was delighted with his bed, and lay down in the middle of it, covering himself with a blanket of leaves. This he did as carefully as a farmer on a lonely farm far away from any neighbors buries a glowing log under the black ashes to keep his fire alive and save himself from having to seek a light elsewhere. And now Athene filled his eyes with sleep and sealed their lids – sleep to soothe his pain and utter weariness.


From "Perils of the Nile", a short story collected in In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist. Rhoda Manning is upset about losing an expensive ring in a movie theater and consoles herself by holing up in bed.

When Rhoda got home she went up to her room, closed the door, and threw herself down on the eiderdown comforter. Why does everything have to happen to me she thought. Every time something happens it happens to me. She rubbed her face deep down into the silk comforter, feeling the cool fabric against her cheeks, smelling the queer dead odor of the down feathers. She pulled out a few pieces where the little white tips were working their way out of the silk.

The eiderdown comforter was Rhoda’s favorite thing in the house. It was dark red on one side and pink on the other. Rhoda liked to roll up in it on hot afternoons and pretend she was Cleopatra waiting for Mark Antony to come kiss her.

Sometimes Cynthia would play the game with her, but Cynthia made a desultory Roman general and her kisses were brief and cold and absentminded. It was better to play Cleopatra alone.

When she was alone Rhoda pretended the bed was a barge floating down the Nile and she was the queen reclining on a silken couch being fed by slaves, her hair combed and perfumed, her sleek half-naked body being pampered and touched and adored in a thousand ways. She lay still, quiet and gracious, watching the shore glide by as she surveyed her kingdom.

Rhoda’s bed was a cherry four-poster, and she could lie on her stomach on top of the comforter and rock the mattress back and forth by the pressure of her feet against the footboard. She would rock like that until she fell asleep, feeling strange and lost in time, a dark queen full of languorous passions.


From Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. As she escapes from her unhappy marriage, young Miyax finds herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness just as winter is beginning.

Miyax went back to her pot and stuffed on the cold raw moss until her stomach felt full if not satisfied. Then she crawled into her cozy home in the hope that sleep would soothe her hunger.

She smoothed the silver hairs of her beautiful wedding parka, then carefully took it off and rolled it up. Placing it and her fur pants in a bag made of whale bladder, she tied it securely so that no moisture would dampen her clothes while she slept. This she had learned in childhood, and it was one of the old Eskimo ways that she liked, perhaps the only one. She had never violated it, even in the warm, gas-heated house in Barrow, for damp clothes could mean death in the Arctic.

When her outer garments were put away she took off the bright-red tights her mother-in-law had bought for her at the American store in Barrow. Walking to the pond, she rinsed them and laid them in the sun. The cool air struck her naked body. She shivered and was glad that she had done one thing right – she had worn her winter clothes, not her light summer kuspuck, the woman’s dress.

The wind gusted, Miyax scrambled through the low door and slid into her sleeping skin. The silken softness of the rabbit fur embraced her and she pulled the hood around her face so that only her nose was exposed. The fur captured her warm breath, held it against her face, and she became her own radiant stove.

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