Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Early Learning Centre...

Dear Early Learning Centre

My son loves playing with his Early Learning Centre Noah’s ark set. Well done on pursuing that religious angle in these increasingly secular days! He is only 19 months old, but I have already explained to him how this toy celebrates the death of everyone on earth bar one family. He loves it! I expect that in years to come there will be some awkward questions about how big the ark would have had to have been, how Noah could have stopped the carnivores eating the herbivores, and how he could have saved the humble woodworm at all without the Ark ending up looking like Swiss cheese. But for now we are just having fun playing!

I do have one question for you though: I am not David Attenborough or anything, but even I can see that in your ark Noah has quite clearly saved two male lions. Look – they both have manes:

The lion is perhaps the species in which it is easiest to differentiate between the male and the female. It’s not like it’s one of those penguins that even zookeepers can’t tell apart unless they’ve got one anaesthetised in an operating theatre. I thought perhaps that there had been a mistake at the factory and that somewhere else in the country another small child was playing with a Noah’s ark containing two lionesses. But no, the picture on the box clearly shows two male lions:

Are these lions gay? Because I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what the Bible thinks about that. (It’s actually a bit contradictory – vacillating between loving everyone and stoning them to death with little middle ground along the lines of “I quite like Graham Norton in small doses and what they all do behind closed doors is up to them”.) But more importantly, how was Noah planning on continuing the world's population of lions with a couple of bummers? Was he going to try cloning them? Because I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what the Bible thinks about that. (It actually doesn’t mention it, unless it’s buried amongst all those rules in Leviticus about not wearing clothes made from different materials or planting different crops next to each other. The closest I can find is “Do not mate different kinds of animals” (Leviticus 19:18), which is kind of the exact opposite of cloning, so maybe God is in favour of it? I don’t know, but it’s a moot point anyway, as it's doubtful the technology would have been available to Noah, whose main area of expertise was carpentry.)

One more question: what kind of animal are these? The box just lists the contents as a rather non-specific “12 x animal shapes”.

Like I said, I’m not David Attenborough or anything, but given that the other animals on what I am increasingly beginning to believe was just a floating fairy tale are lions, elephants, giraffes, camels and rhinoceroses, I was expecting something a 19-month old would be able to instantly recognise. We think they look like guinea pigs, but they’re the same size as the rhinos! Maybe if you made guinea pigs to scale they would represent a choking hazard, but at their current dimensions I think they will scare my son when it comes to choosing his first pet. If you’re looking for another animal with a distinctive silhouette, what about the kangaroo? (Though this might throw up a few awkward questions about Australia not having been discovered at the time of the Great Flood.)

Yours, for the time being, faithfully

Mr S Vincent