Saturday, October 20, 2001

There's just not enough weird children's stories around these days.

When I was just a young sprout, I remember reading this great folk story about Baba Yaga (not to be confused with Barbapapa, of course, the head of a clan of kidney-bean shaped, multicolored goo people). Baba Yaga lived in a forest, in a hut made of human bones and supported on chicken legs. I kid you not. And she would, well, eat people. Sometimes she is portrayed riding around in a mortar and pestle through the night sky, just being creepy and evil. This also proves that Slavic folk tale writers had way too much time on their hands.

There's just not enough of that wholesome kind of family entertainment around these days.

My wife, who is German, grew up with Der Struwwelpeter, or Shockheaded/Slovenly Peter, a collection of stories featuring children being maimed and killed for not obeying their parents. Here is a lovely story about a girl playing with matches and burning herself to death. That in itself might be enough for some people, but the author here chose to further upset young readers by showing a picture of kitty-cats crying, which is nice. But this is the best story in there, and it really freaked her out as a kid. It's a pleasing tale of the dangers of sucking your thumb. If you do suck your thumb, despite the dire warnings of mom & pop, a kindly gentleman will appear and cut off your thumb with hedge clippers. Hell, that freaks me out now and I'm thirty.

There is a touring production of a musical version of these happy tales, which sadly will not make it down here to the land of wigs and novelties.

I'm sorry if this entry was traumatic for any of you out there. Here are some pictures of cute ringtail lemurs to make you feel better.

That's life, really isn't it? There's a little Baba Yaga and a little lemur every day.


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