The White Mountains (The Tripods, Book 1), by John Christopher

Posted: March 31, 2009 in Science Fiction / SF
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The White MountainsWhen I was in elementary school, I can remember coming home from school in anticipation of watching a BBC series called “The Tripods.” If I remember correctly, each episode ran for thirty minutes, and they always left me hanging at the end. The music was superb, the effects outstanding (for the day), and the story was spectacular. I just had to see the next episode to find out what was going to happen next; only to be rudely disappointed when the show suddenly stopped airing.

When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher–who was also a fan of the series–was nice enough to show them to the class. We got through two seasons, and like before, I was left hanging at the end. It wasn’t until many years later–after I created the first Yahoo Group Tripods Fanclub–that I learned the show was canceled before they produced the final season–the third book in the series.

Not only that, but when the first season was put into VHS format, they never released the second season other than what was shown on TV. This made things difficult for a fan who wanted to watch it again. To make a long story short, just this very month there was a release of both seasons on DVD with music from Ken Freeman that would have been used in the final 3rd season. It’s in Region 2, PAL format, which won’t work on US DVD players or televisions, however it will work on your Computer and they hookup nicely to TVs now-a-days.

Story overview:

Thirteen-year-old Will and his cousin, Henry (one month younger than Will) live in a small English village. Will’s other cousin and best friend, Jack Leeper, is “of age” to receive what’s called a “cap”–the boy is raised up into a three-legged alien ship (thus, Tripod) and has a metal cap placed on his head, which is used to control his thoughts. The villagers understand this celebration as a coming of age ceremony. It’s considered a great honor.

Once Jack received his cap, Will became horrified to discover that his friend was no longer what he once was. Being only a year behind “of age” himself, Will happens across a mysterious vagrant who goes by the name of “Ozymandias” (vagrants are supposedly people who had a capping go wrong). He convinces Will to escape to a place where there are “Free Men” living in seclusion at the “White Mountains” (actually the Swiss Alps, literally translated from the French Mont Blanc).

Henry learns of this, but rather than turn Will in, he demands to go along. Even though the two boys never really got along in the past, they go together with a common goal. Sailing to France they meet up with a boy named Beanpole, who becomes the third member of their party. Rummaging through the remains of Paris, hiding from Tripods, getting side tracked at a manor owned by a wealthy French count; they follow through many adventures on their way to the “White Mountains.”

My thoughts:

I had acquired a fondness for these stories ever since I was a kid. The TV show was never completed, but thankfully the books were. The idea of our world in the future, gone downward rather than forward due to aliens enslaving mankind by controlling their thoughts, is one of both intrigue and wonder. The discovery, adventure, and fight for freedom are ones that can spark the imagination of any boy.

Things to consider:

I don’t remember anything questionable in the story, but there are elements that may be a little disturbing to young children. I would say this is a great book for pre-teens (tweens) +, and is mostly targeted toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:

The main theme in this story is freedom. Let your kids know that there are many people and groups out there that will try and force their opinions on them, sometimes by manipulation and sometimes by force. Tell them to keep their minds sharp and not let anyone else control them. Tell them to never stop questioning, testing, and examining the things in their lives. Share how true freedom is obtained in Christ, and that even though people can live content lives without, deep inside they have become prisoners to the things and ideals of this world. The story also speaks of the struggle to maintain ones own creative faculties.

  1. Anne Franklin says:

    On the radio, afew years ago, I heard of a study that was being conducted on a group of children. As preschoolers, 80% of the children tested as highly creative. The same children were tested at the end of first grade. Only 20% still tested as highly creative. Between school and our culture, 60% of those kids had been “capped”. The ”Tripod” books eloquently discribe the struggle so many creative and inventive people have to keep their indpendance in a culture that demands uniformity.

  2. And the increase in technology with it’s easy come and easy go, has made it even more difficult for children to use their imagination. Toys now-a-days do everything for them, rather than having them do everything for the toy. Just shows how important it is for parents to help their children enter into the world of books.

  3. […] The White Mountains (The Tripods, Book 1), by John Christopher March 2009 2 comments […]

  4. Orlyca says:

    I once drew a picture of horses for my grandma. Just yesterday she brought it up and showed me it for the first time in years. Then she said something that made me think. She said “Do you want to know why I really like this picture? It’s because when you drew this, you were drawing it freely. You weren’t doing it to impress other people, or for a fad. You did it because you wanted to.” This reminds me of being capped.

  5. Good comparison. Creativity for the sake of creative expression alone often gets lost with age. I believe refinement is important, as is progression of one’s talents, but if the heart is lost then so enters the cap.

  6. Anonymous says:

    this story is very adventorous

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