File puptcrit/puptcrit.0904, message 180


To: <puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 09:27:47 -0400
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Talking Animals


What did he teach?  Not art, I hope.

-----Original Message-----
From: puptcrit-bounces-AT-puptcrit.org [mailto:puptcrit-bounces-AT-puptcrit.org]
On Behalf Of HobgoblinH-AT-aol.com
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 7:20 AM
To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Subject: [Puptcrit] Talking Animals

Dear All--
 
In reference to a previous e-mail I sent, something of a tirade in  
reference to the joys of anthropomorphism, I offer this odd  anecdote.
 
By way of intro, I teach in the public schools, and German is one subject  
I teach. Because the textbooks available on the market offer no stories that

 appeal to me-- most nowadays are modern conversations about schoolwork or 
travel  or friends-- I have written a few fairy tales in German, because the

textbooks  of a hundred years ago more often had fables, fairy tales, and 
heroic  tales, which are more challenging linguistically, but more fun to 
struggle  though. Besides, the Germans have a grand tradition of fairy tales

and heroic  tales.
 
That being said, I was speaking to another teacher friend, who was  talking 
about retiring, and I asked him how he would keep from getting bored in  
retirement. He said he was thinking about illustrating children's books, as
he 
 had been an artist most of his life, and he had a brother who was a 
publisher of  such things. I mentioned that I had written some stories, but
one 
was my  favorite, and it would be nice to see it printed. He was interested,

so I  translated it into English for him, and with some nervousness handed
it 
 over. He seemed pretty excited, and read it over a few times and got back 
to me  the next day.  
 
The upshot was, he told me that his grandmother had told him children's  
stories should never have talking animals in them. (The story involves a  
bear, a fish, an old woman, and a jester. They all talk, and the bear is the

main character.) This teacher asked me if I could just change the story a  
little so that all the talking and plot manipulation could involve the  old 
woman and the jester, so that the bear wouldn't have to talk -- never mind
the 
fish. 
 
My mouth was hanging open. I really could not argue very coherently,  
because on such a subject, the waters run too deep. All I could say was that
I  
had read endless stories for children in which animals talked, and the 
teacher  said, yes, but his grandmother had written children's fiction -- as
if 
that made  her the last court of appeal. Yes, I could have said all kinds of

clever things,  but if an illustrator feels animals shouldn't talk, then he 
obviously can't  illustrate the story. So I told him the point wasn't 
negotiable; end of  story.
 
Except it didn't end there. My head was buzzing for days about all the  
things I should have said -- Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, Grimm's  
Tales, and on and on. I felt guilty for all the grand books I had not
defended. 
 Then I resolved to overcome all the technical difficulties which  had 
prevented us from doing the story as a puppet show, just to get  the thing
out 
of my system. So spring begins, and I'm back to carving, starting  with the 
poor, maligned bear, who shouldn't be allowed to talk because he is in  a 
children's story. And the look on his face -- hopeful, yet bewildered and
lost  
-- I know it's my face, because that's just how I felt, hearing from a 
friend  that animals shouldn't talk in children's stories. 
 
What a world,
Alice

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