The Tinderbox

If you remember the Hans Anderson story of “The Tinderbox” you will know that there were three dogs whose presence could be summoned by the striking of the box. The recognisable feature of these dogs was the size of their eyes. In the order we meet the dogs who were guarding boxes of coins, the size of the eyes increases along with the value of the coins being guarded, copper, silver and gold. The largest of the dogs, guarding the gold coins, is described as having “eyes as big as The Round Tower”. The Round Tower is a medieval observatory in Copenhagen with a diameter of 12 metres. As the soldier remarked, of the dog, “indeed an impressive fellow”.

A few months ago a mega-iceberg detached from the Antarctic ice-shelf. This block of ice has an area about the size of Wales (20,000 sq km). How does that help us? You may have been to Wales and may therefore have some idea of how big it is.

If you have not been to Wales you will still know that it is big. It is about 100 times bigger than Birmingham. If you never left Quinton that doesn’t help you much unless you know the area of Quinton, about 5 sq km, and therefore 1/20th the size of Birmingham.

As people we have instinctive need to compare sizes. This probably goes back to the cavemen and women who needed to know if that animal was going to be your lunch or was it going to have you for its lunch. The largest of the dinosaurs were herbivores, but this still didn’t lessen the danger. The most dangerous, lethal, animals in Africa are Hippopotamus, Mosquito and Elephant in the order they kill people.

Whatever you are looking at you need to be able to report on its size and for that you need to a sense of scale.. “Our God is a great big God!” wrote Nigel Hemming, just how big? At Christmas we find the answer “Our God, contracted to a span. Incomprehensibly made man.”

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