James Reaney’s The Boy Who Lived in the Sun

In the summer of 1961, James Reaney wrote and illustrated a story for children called The Boy Who Lived in the Sun. He made 36 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 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
(page 3 illustration)
and all the other planets — even tiny, gray Pluto
He loved watching earthsets best though
He dreamed of walking on earth. Beneath trees!
No trees, no shadows on the sun! In the dream, there were
were children picking berries in a lane. They looked at him as if they knew who he was

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

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 at last 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 farmgirl 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 Uranus harvest the enchanted hay
(Neptune with his sceptre)
sail the stormy seas of Neptune
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 1000 thoughts
On Mercury steal the ogress’ magic horn
on planet Venus find the tree whose leaves are flowers
And now that you have done these things go, for you are ready, Go to earth!
There he met the children of his dream who said that he was their brother. While berry picking they had lost sight of him in the forest. They were just going home to tell their parents that he was lost,
but now instead they would take him home.

 

Note from Susan Reaney: The Boy Who Lived in the Sun existed from my early childhood and was never published. I always thought of it as unfinished because I could not accept the ending. The boy returns to earth and is reunited with his family, but does he remember being a boy who lived in the sun? Now I think perhaps he does.

James Reaney at home, age 4. Summer 1930