Paddle to the Sea is a short film by Canadian Bill Mason, based on the award winning children’s book by Holling C. Holling. Paddle is about a boy in the mountains of Ontario who one winters day, carves a canoe out of wood with a Native American figure riding in it. On the bottom of it he paints ‘Paddle to the Sea’ and adds instructions that whoever finds the boat should put Paddle back in the water.
What happens next is what makes the story so great. The boy then leaves the boat in the snow, to be taken down the hillside when the snow thaws. The thaw moves the canoe into a mountain creek which then takes it to Lake Superior, and through a course of many more rivers and lakes, eventually spits the little wooden canoe into the Atlantic Ocean. The movie follows Paddle through all of his adventures and close-calls with only the sounds of nature and the narrators voice to accompany him along his way. Paddle is on an adventure that any boy would want to take.
Growing up in NEO, my school district made us watch this film every year, from grade 3 to 8. Though I had seen Paddle 8+ times, I was not until recently that I was able to view it in a different light. When you get past the fact that Paddle is just a simple woodcarving, you start to think about and get transfixed on the struggles that Paddle has to overcome. In one scene, Paddle is stuck in a whirlpool and the narrator wonders if he will be able to get out and move forward with his journey to the sea. For, as he points out, Paddle has no paddles and no real arms to paddle them if he did. It’s a feeling everyone has at one time or another. Our lives are spinning out of control and we do not have the right tools or ability to overcome. Hopefully, like Paddle, we don’t give up, we overcome those obstacles and continue our journey in life, or as Paddle did, to the sea.