Many sites delve into the dynamics of birth order. My favorite treatise on it, however, is not a website based on studies and research, but a fictional book series by Andrew Peterson, collectively known as The Wingfeather Saga.
The Igiby/Wingfeather family has three children: Janner, Tink, and Leeli. Janner, as the oldest, is naturally protective of his two younger siblings. Tink, the middle child and the second son, is adventurous and impetuous. Leeli, the youngest, a little girl who needs a crutch to walk, provides balance to her two older brothers.
Spoiler alert: the children discover that they are, in fact, a royal family. Unlike the traditional royal family, however, the crown does not go to the oldest son, but to the second. The firstborn’s job is to protect the younger, a nearly impossible task when the youngest has a strong mind of his own.
I have the feeling that Andrew drew on his own relationship with his brother as wrote the stories. Peet the Sockman, in later books, bears a strong resemblance to Pete the Peterson. Andrew does a wonderful job developing the resentment each can feel toward the other at times, and yet always there is an undercurrent of love. I’m afraid to give too much away because I think everyone should read this series.
Start with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, a Christy Award nominee, which introduces the reader to the family and begins the adventure.
Then read North or Be Eaten! This won the Christy Award in 2009. The adventure continues. The plot thickens.
The Monster in the Hollows, my favorite so far, takes place in the Green Hollows. If I were given the choice of visiting the Green Hollows, Narnia, or Bilbo’s Shire, it might be a tough decision.
The fourth book, The Warden and the Wolf King, has finally been written, and now we await its magical appearance on our bookshelves. Even now, rabbits are scurrying around the Rabbit Room to make that happen. Soon.
My favorite scene from On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is when Janner begins to understand his role.
“So, if my father’s dead, then that means… I’m… king?” Janner stammered.
Nia looked at him carefully. “No, son. No, you’re not.”
Janner’s cheeks flushed.
“It’s all right, dear,” she said, placing a hand on his arm. “You see, in Annieria, the kingship is passed over the eldest son. For as long as there have been rulers in Anniera, the position of highest distinction is that of protector. Too many kingdoms have fallen because of envy, greed and lust for power. So the second-born wears the crown.” She looked at Tink. “Your brother is the rightful heir to the throne.”
While I was looking through pictures recently, I found this:
I love that God places within each child a unique set of gifts and talents, and a natural tendency towards certain behaviors — protection being one of them.
To the oldest goes a strong sense of responsibility and protectiveness for his younger sibling.
To the second, a kingship of his own, with great things ahead.
Within a family, our lives are inextricably intertwined. I’m so thankful for the part we can play with each other.