In the summer of 1961, James Reaney wrote and illustrated a story for children called The Boy Who Lived in the Sun. He made 32 watercolour illustrations to go with the text, stitched them together, and for many years it was only shared with family and friends.
In the story, a boy who lives in the sun dreams of going to earth to meet other children. He discovers that it’s not that easy for a luminary being to have contact with humans, and that the process of becoming human will require lengthy and celestial labour on his part.
Once there was a little boy who lived in the sun. (Illustration and text by James Reaney, 1961)
Every morning he watched the earth get up
and all the other planets too — even tiny, gray Pluto.
He loved watching earth sets best though.
He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!
No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream, there
were children picking berries in a lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was.
Illustration by James Reaney, 1961 for The Boy Who Lived in the Sun
So the boy wanted very much to live on the earth, to pick berries, to meet the children in his dream. He wanted to be a little boy who lived on the earth.
“Do you,” said the Archangel of the sun when he went to see him. “[I] wonder. It’s a very slow process. You can go to earth but first you must go to Pluto and then to…
“No,” stamped the boy, “I wish to go right now.” “Then go,” laughed the Archangel. “[I] think it may do you some good.”
and down to earth went the boy — right through a big rainstorm.
It was night & a large moth pursued him all over. Since he was a child of the sun he glowed in the dark.
He hid in a hollow tree but did not sleep. He did not need to. He did not know how to.
A bough of green apples ripened at one glance from him!
A farm girl threw a pitcher of milk at him
He melted the ice beneath skaters!
He caused a thistle and a butterfly to come out although it was snowing
In a minute a little baby he paused to talk to grew up into a woman & then down into a very old lady.
He could make no contact with earth-people. To them he was often just a sunbeam in the corner of the room.
There were no children picking berries and the leaves had fallen off the trees
Next he saw a crowd of people. He must have been in a city. The boy was discovering that he often had very little control over where he was. He was not human yet and so bounced about like a flash of light.
One day he went back to the sun. It was harder to go to earth than he had thought.
“As I was saying,” said the Archangel of the Sun. “In order to go to Earth first you must go to Pluto and be…
[…] an old beggar man for 100 years
On Mars you must lead the toy soldiers against the mad mice
You must be a madcap on the Moon for a full Leap Year
You must on Saturn think a 1000 thoughts
On Mercury steal the ogress’ magic horn
sail the stormy seas of Neptune
on Uranus harvest the enchanted hay
on planet Venus find the tree whose leaves are flowers
Note from Susan Reaney, July 2, 2013: The Boy Who Lived in the Sun was never published and existed in the manuscript form you see here from my early childhood. Is the story finished? Does the boy get to go back to the earth? If he does, will he remember being a boy who lived in the sun? Perhaps he does.
James Reaney at home, age 4. Summer 1930