(He wasn't in a trap. He was standing shoulder-deep in a warm swimming pool. But ever since he started watching Pokemon cartoons, traps have become a big part of his imaginative play.)
'Who put you in the trap?' I asked.
'Team Rocket!' he replied, predictably.
'Can you get out?' I asked.
'No!' he wailed in mock-despair. 'It's made of walls and water and memory and glue and strongness and leopards!'
Well, a few seconds later he 'escaped' with the help of an imaginary burst of electricity. (Pikachu has much to answer for.) But that trap has stayed in my mind ever since.
|It's a traaaaap!|
I think the reason it's stuck with me is because we expect the transition from concrete to abstract to be one-way. Sometimes it goes from abstract to concrete, like when you have to pass a test to show that you are brave and pure of heart in order to enter the castle of evil, or whatever. More often it goes from concrete to abstract, so it turns out that all the business with fighting skeletons and climbing out of pits was just the warm-up, and the real challenge was to see if you were able to forgive the memory of your dead brother or something. But this trap - this sixfold snare - does both. Twice.
From the outside, I imagine it looks like a castle, obviously built to protect something important. No doors, no windows: just circular curtain walls. Climb them and you'll be faced with the bridge-less moat inside. In the middle of the moat is an island, and the island is full of memories: memories of everything you've ever missed, everything you've ever lost, everything you ever wanted to see again. Only the sternest of souls can avoid standing for hours, lost in bittersweet rapture - which is unfortunate, as the island is also covered in fast-drying glue, and the longer you stand there the more firmly you'll stick to it. Consider bringing an amnesiac.
If you make it past the glue and the memories you'll get to the inner keep, which is made of Strongness. Its stones seethe with barely-contained power, and no human tools can force its gates or breach its walls. Push a wall and it will punch you back. Strike one and it will lash out and hit you twice as hard. The trick, naturally, is to turn the keep against itself: to strike one wall in such a way that the inevitable counter-attack ends up hitting another wall, which strikes back twice as hard at the first one, and so on and so forth until they've punched massive holes in each other and the way forwards lies clear.
And then, when you're inside and your eyes are adjusting to the dark and you're congratulating yourself on your cleverness, you get jumped on and eaten by a bunch of leopards.
It is a trap, after all...