Like most people, I assume, I have had many night-time dreams which seemed so real that I awoke with strong impressions. It has been my thought that, if I could hold them in memory long enough, I could write them into stories.
Then, I remember “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber, written in 1939. No, I am not nearly that old, but the book was around in my high school years when I checked the book out from the school library.
It was first collected in his book My World and Welcome to It (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1942).
It has later reprinted in James Thurber: Writings and Drawings (The Library of America, 1996, ISBN 1-883011-22-1),
It is one of the most anthologized short stories in American literature.
The story is considered one of Thurber’s “acknowledged masterpieces”.
It was made into a 1947 movie of the same name. Danny Kaye played the title role
Like many books turned into movies, the movie is very different from the original story. In a 2013 film, it is very different from the original.
The name Walter Mitty appears as “Mittyesqu”, in the English language. It refers to an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams escaping the real world. Another definition is one who intentionally pretends he is something he isn’t.
So, could a writer take night-time dreams and turn them into a story? Could they possibly succeed as well and Mitty’s works?
I have no idea what created this dream. I do not remember any discussion in my high school language arts classroom that fed my imagination. Perhaps there was something in the news about someone held captive south of the border. However….
I found myself in Mexico south of the Arizona border. I didn’t speak the Spanish language which did nothing to increase my feelings of safety. In fact, I was hiding, on the run, sneaking into abandoned buildings. I ran through dark alleys, worrying about voices that meant danger.
Suddenly, of course, one of my students appeared around a corner. He spoke Spanish, of course. With pieces missing in my dream, he rescued me from the bad guys and I awoke.
Dreams into stories, anyone?