Literary Easter Eggs

For the word nerds among us – of which you’re probably one, or else I think you’ve clicked on the wrong blog – there is nothing more satisfying than discovering an Easter egg in a book or movie we’re enjoying.

An Easter egg is where the author deliberately hides a secret clue or message to sharp-eyed readers, often irrelevant to the book itself, but related to the wider world of the writer.

Disney is famous for placing Easter eggs in almost all of their animated movies, with characters and references from one movie regularly popping up in others. Examples include Aladdin’s lamp appearing in Tamatoa the Crab’s pile of sparkly treasure, Rapunzel and Flynn arriving at Elsa’s coronation in Frozen, and Pumba as a stone gargoyle on the roof of the Hunchback’s cathedral.

Stephen King is probably the most famous of the literary Easter bunnies. Almost all of his books are connected to at least one other, either in characters that reappear or are referenced, reusing settings or lines being repeated from book to book.

One example is the book It, where one of the characters, Eddie Kasbrak lives next door to Paul Sheldon, who of course reappears as the main protagonist in Misery.

Margaret Atwood is also known to include Easter eggs and inside jokes in her works, such as Offred noting an inscription on a desk in The Handmaid’s Tale that reads ‘M loves G, 1972’ which actually references a real relationship Margaret Atwood had with fellow author Graeme Gibson that started in 1972.

The epigraph at the start of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is accredited to poet Thomas Parke D’Invilliers. However, D’Invilliers is not a real poet but a secondary character from an earlier Fitzgerald book, This Side of Paradise.

The list goes on (seriously – Google literary Easter eggs and see your morning disappear).

I also like to include Easter eggs in my books.

I have four novels (in various states of ‘doneness’) which stretch from the early 1800s to 2020 and they are all linked in some way. It amuses me greatly to be able to do this.

The first book I started, The Teacher, is set 1912-14 and the main character is Isabelle Kelly when she is eighteen years of age and attending the Claremont Training College. (In this book I also mention two characters who belong to other Perth writers, Emily Paull and Sasha Wasley, who gave me permission to briefly include their characters in various scenes.)

Isabelle reappears at the age of eighty in my book Behind Closed Doors, which is set between 1965-85,as an elderly aunt to one of my characters. The protagonist in this book is an artist called Cordelia Cartwright, and one of her paintings (and a mention of Cordy herself) appears in 100 Days of March, which is set in 2020.

I’m halfway through my first draft of The Carrington Effect, which is set in the 1800s. I had been wondering how I could reference my other books considering the vast distance of time, but one of my protagonists is a midwife and while writing a birthing scene I realised that the child being born in 1859 could be Isabelle Kelly’s father.

Being able to connect all my books together makes me feel like the work I am doing is part of something larger; a quilt of literary pieces I am embroidering, bound together with stitches made of characters.

I’m fully aware that the chances of all four books being finished and published is slim and therefore no one else will ever realise how clever I am (please detect the joking tone in my words).

But just to know they exist makes me smile.

What is your favourite literary Easter egg?

Published by Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a Perth-based writer and storyteller

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