In Miniature

In Miniature December 2, 2020

The very smallness is what is fascinating.

Miniature London is well underway in our house. The construction has taken several days and while I am not able to do much of the actual arrangements, as my general coordination would leave many of the porcelain pieces in ruins, I enjoy the entire process.

A mistake that the movies made in dealing with Narnia was to assume that CS Lewis lacked the expansive imagination of Tolkien. The filmmakers tried to make the battles and events of Narnia as titanic as those of Middle Earth. Lewis was, however, going for smallness. He had been fascinated with miniature gardens made in tins as a boy. This is a trait he shared with Walt Disney: the fascination of smallness led Walt to build Storybook Land Canal Boats. 

There is a charm to the miniature. We love the Lilliputian, far more than the Brobdingnagians. The rich man without taste will see a beautiful cottage, gild it and make it huge, ruining the charm.  When we make something that is large small, a whimsy, a fairy like quality arises, implicit in the original, but hard for us to see. The oak tree is grand, but the miniaturized oak allows us to grasp the whole. The full grown tree, like the great City, is too large for our eyes. The miniature City can be seen at once and so a structure can be seen.

The great City is easier in pieces, but the miniature city is easier to see in totality.

miniature is an image of the actual and so can be private. Each year my oldest son designs the miniature London to his taste. This is, in one sense, his city in a way that the real London could never be for any individual. Even the most planned community is the product of many minds and belongs to many people. This miniature London, this Christmas city, is my son’s.

We can enjoy our very own miniature city in ways that we could not morally enjoy a real city. Miniatures are accessible and private.  This may be why children love them (pocket pals!) with those like Lewis and Disney who retain a child’s vision. When a boy, I built homes inside of Sucrets tins. This other world could be carried to school, opened, and provide scope for the imagination during a tedious math class. God creates a cosmos and His children in His image make miniature worlds, often in words, but also in Sucrets tins.

These small worlds have meaning to us and this gives them a secondary reality. They are temporary, while the City of God is eternal, the miniature London is new every year, while the Eternal City is preserved in safety for all time. Our small decorations, our trees, our gilt, our glitter, are not garish in miniature! If we blow them up, they become gauche and ugly, but in their place as our little creations, our Holiday decorations, they are comfortable, charming, and cozy.

These are not great virtues, but they are very good. After a hard year, they are much needed. After all, in all the great cosmos we are very small. We are God’s miniatures, made in His image, and so not titanic like an archangel or terrible as a leviathan. Instead, we are God’s children and so this jollification is for us.




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