Another Look At King Machush The First By Janusz Korczak

King Machush the First is regarded in Poland as one of the noteworthy contributions to Polish children’s literature.  It has been translated into many different languages, has inspired an opera, plays, and much criticism.  Korczak was one of the leading children’s rights activists of his day, and his book about the psychology of the child, Jak lubic dziecko, is as applicable today as it was when he completed it.   King Machush becomes a kind of philosopher-king as he learns about other children’s impoverished lives and struggles to bring about reforms.  Perhaps the character that most resembles Korczak is the Melancholy King, who is sad, reflective, and all too aware of the obstacles one must face to bring about reform.  The following excerpt from Act 1 Scene 8 gives some idea of the major theme in the work.

Machush:  And why is one King?

Melancholy King:  Not just to wear a crown.  But to give happiness to the people of his kingdom.  And how do you give happiness?  You introduce different reforms.

Machush(aside):  Oh-ho!  This is interesting.

Melancholy King:  And reforms–they are the most difficult.  Yes, the most difficult.(Melancholy King plays a sad melody on his violin.)  You are surprised, because you think that Kings can do anything they want.

Machush:  I don’t think that at all.  I know that protocol forbids many things, and so does the law.

Melancholy King:  Oh, you know already.  Yes, we alone issue bad laws, and then we have to follow them.

Machush:  Isn’t it possible to issue good laws?

Melancholy King:  It is possible, and one should.  You are still young, Machush.  Learn, and issue good, wise laws.(King takes Machush’s hand, and places it on his own, stroking it very tenderly.)  Listen, Machush.  My grandfather gave people freedom, but the outcome was bad.  They murdered him, and afterwards the people weren’t happy.  My father raised a great monument to freedom.  It is beautiful, but wars go on.  Then there are the poor and unfortunate to consider.  I ordered this great parliament building to be built, but what of it?  Things are the same as before.(Suddenly, he remembers something.)  You know, Machush.  We have always done badly when we have given reforms to adults.  If you try with the children, maybe you will succeed.  Now sleep, my dear child.  You came here to have fun, and I’ve disturbed you.  Good night.

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

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