Quotes by P.L. Travers, Author of Mary Poppins

P.L. Travers (1899 – 1966) found inspiration for her writing as an avid reader of fairy tales and mythology. It’s no surprise, then, that she created the magical nanny, Mary Poppins (1934). After the original Mary Poppins book (always the most successful), there were several sequels, and of course, the famous 1964 Disney musical film.

The original Mary Poppins books were darker and more subversive than the Disney-fied version. And the film Saving Mr. Banks, depicting the making of Mary Poppins,  had Emma Thompson portraying the prickly author, who fought Disney on every detail. And that still didn’t tell the whole story of just what a pill Travers could be. Here are some quotes by P.L. Travers:

“A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns.” (As quoted in The New York Times, July 2, 1978)

“You can ask me anything you like about my work, but I’ll never talk about myself.” (As quoted by Valerie Lawson, in an interview: “The Mystic Life of P.L. Travers,” May 7, 2003)

“Once we have accepted the story we cannot escape the story’s fate.”

“A great friend of mine at the beginning of our friendship (he was himself a poet) said to me very defiantly, ‘I have to tell you that I loathe children’s books.’ And I said to him, ‘Well, won’t you just read this just for my sake?’ And he said grumpily, ‘Oh, very well, send it to me.’ I did, and I got a letter back saying: ‘Why didn’t you tell me? Mary Poppins with her cool green core of sex has me enthralled forever.’ (Interview by Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold, The Paris Review No. 86; Winter 1982)

“You can’t expect two stars to drop in the same field in one lifetime”

“Perhaps we are born knowing the tales of our grandmothers and all their ancestral kin continually run in our blood repeating them endlessly, and the shock they give us when we first bear them is not of surprise but of recognition.” (About the Sleeping Beauty, 1975)

“You do not chop off a section of your imaginative substance and make a book specifically for children, for — if you are honest — you have no idea where childhood ends and maturity begins. It is all endless and all one.” (As quoted in Sticks and Stones : The Troublesome Success of Children’s Literature from Slovenly Peter to Harry Potter, 2002)

“For me there are no answers, only questions, and I am grateful that the questions go on and on. I don’t look for an answer, because I don’t think there is one. I’m very glad to be the bearer of a question. (Quoted in “Hail, Mary!” in The Independent by Mark Bostridge, September 19, 2004)


Learn more about P.L. Travers

Quotes from Mary Poppins (1934)

“It may be that to eat and be eaten are the same thing in the end. My wisdom tells me that this is probably so. We are all made of the same stuff, remember, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us — the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star — we are all one, all moving to the same end. Remember that when you no longer remember me, my child.”

“Don’t you know that everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own?”

“What I want to know is this: Are the stars gold paper or is the gold paper stars?

“Tonight the small are free from the great and the great protect the small.”

“Bird and beast and stone and star — we are all one, all one.”

“There was something strange and extraordinary about her – something that was frightening and at the same time most exciting.”

“Next time you must stay for tea and we’ll all sit together on a rock and sing a song to the moon”

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

P.L. Travers page on Amazon

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