The Lumber Room Background

The Lumber Room Background

The author of this short story is popularly known as Saki. That was the pen name that H.H. Munro chose to publish under and despite expectations that might arise from that pseudonym, he has no genetic connection (none know, anyway) to Japan. According to reliable sources, the derivation of his pen name is from a character in Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam. Munro’s parental homeland was actually Scotland though, like many other writers of the period, he himself was actually born closer to the Japanese islands than the British Isle: Burma, known today as Myanmar.

The Lumber Room” is typical Saki fare, short and pithy, with irony as its controlling tonal perspective and a cheeky appreciation of bad behavior by kids toward adults who are overly satisfied with the idea that experience automatically equals wisdom. This is a misapprehension that is constantly undermined by the characters in Saki’s stories. The story appeared as part of the warmly received and highly regarded 1914 collection of short fiction titled Beasts and Super-Beasts. Among the other stories which appear along “The Lumber Room” in this volume are some of his most well-known and oft-anthologized such as “The Open Window” and “The Story-Teller.” Anyone familiar with those two stories with which Saki is very closely associated will not be surprised to find that “The Lumber Room” is also a story about the inherent prevalence of many adults to automatically underestimate the intelligence, imagination and—and deviousness—of children. Although a number of the stories in the collection do include animals as significant aspects of the story, the primary unifying theme tends more toward the beastliness of humanity, typically on a small scale suitable for the humorous quality of the story rather than the more sinister darker side of human nature more suitable for horror or melodrama.

Saki was born in 1870 and only really came into his own as a writer with the dawning of the 20th century. As a result, “The Lumber Room” is quite representative of his full body of which is dominated by a recurrence of themes having to do with rebellion against Victorian traditions and mores. Also like protagonist of this story, many of his heroes are children whose individual insurrections against familial authority can be collective read as a metaphor of the Burmese-born Scot’s relationship with the dominant power of British Empire. The fact that the author’s sister Ethel latest attested to the fact that the authoritarian aunt in the story was an especially faithful fictionalization of their own aunt also indicates that his sense of rebellion hit much closer to home as well.

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