9 May 2012

Maurice Sendak's other great work...

I came across this a while ago in my library, and I thought it was pretty horrific in terms of poor messages for fairy tales to carry, I'm talking of course, of Wilhelm Hauff's Dwarf Long-Nose - one of the more un-PC children's books I've stumbled across.

Apparently, in Germanic countries, this tale is as well-known as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. It involves a young handsome boy who is turned into an "ugly dwarf" by a "hag" who was "ragged and in tatters" after Jacob takes offense to the way she manhandles her mother's herbs (I know) with her "dark brown, ugly hands". After not believing that this new incarnation is her son, the mother sends him away calling him "an ugly monster".

The father is equally dismissive, and Jacob weeps.

And then masturbates with his nose.

To cut a long(ish) story short, he becomes a chef to the Duke (after turning down the chance to be court jester).

He then buys three geese, one of whom (Mimi), is spared of the chopping board because she cries and sings him a little song. Mimi helps Jacob find a herb that restores his height and good-looks and only then do his parents take him back with open arms.

I don't need to point out the obvious about the many levels on which this story is offensive, but I thought it was timely to share, as the illustrator for this particular edition is none other than Maurice Sendak who died yesterday. Obviously not his finest moment, but interesting to point out all the same, thankfully he will be forever remembered as the genius who brought us Where the Wild Things Are.  

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