“The Governess As Provocateur”*

*subtitle of Giorgia Grilli’s Myth, Symbol and Meaning in Mary Poppins (2015).

“…In another equally unusual scene, Maia, one of the Pleiades stars, descends to the earth in the form of a bright, vivacious little girl. This time it is Mary Poppins who presents the gift sanctioning the contact between the two different dimensions. As long as it is performed ritually, these scenes all seem to say, the contact is both possible and not dangerous…

And for a moment they all stood in a ring at the windy corner gazing at each other as though they were enchanted (I, p.157)

Anthropologists underline, in fact, how these exchanges and ritual gestures in primitive visions of the world – like the one brought about by Mary Poppins – could take place either between humans or between humans and cosmic entities. Primitive thought saw the world almost as a thinking, intelligent entity that functioned according to a set of decipherable symbols and signs. The world, seen from this perspective, is a supreme interlocutor; it is something that, being so intertwined with man, cannot be seen as “other,” nor can it be left “outside the door.”

Mary Poppins (and all that she does) is surrounded and encompassed at all times by a sense of necessity, which presents itself as a force that must be followed (evidenced, for example, by the wind that carries her toward the Banks household or out of it again). This necessity that she embraces and brings with her pushes the “normal” people she comes across to act in ways that correspond no longer to their conscious will but, quite surprisingly, to what their deepest needs might be; these needs running so deep, in fact, that they were previously unexpressed and were not even recognised…”

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