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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 01 Apr 2014, 22:41

I was thinking similarly, Gil, though my first reaction was that they might not think of themselves as African.  No one refers to me as Scottish-New Zealand.  (Though yesterday, a woman came into our information centre and said she would pay for herself and her husband to go into the museum.  He hadn't come into the centre at the time and she was describing him a bit and I said, "Is he Japanese too? Though maybe you're not Japanese." By which I meant she might be Korean, but she said, "No, I'm not.  I come from Hawaii," and I said, "Oh, so American then." This still didn't help with what racial characteristics her husband might have (he was white) for me to identify him.  And it took me a second when he tried to pay to realise that this was the man who was already paid for - I hadn't noticed his identifying shorts that she had told me he was wearing.)

As regards 'niggardly' the person I remember reading was aware the two words weren't connected by meaning or etymology, but was showing hyper-sensitivity, and on checking this morning I see numerous people seemed to be supportive of this stance at the time (still? I don't know).  Though I saw a comment saying it would be like being unable to say Day-glo in case it reminded people of dago. There does seem to be a huge sensitivity to race in America.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 14:06

On a slightly different tack, the publisher Hodder has announced that it will re-issue Enid Blyton's "Famous Five" stories with revised expressions. This time it's not her racism or sexism that is being called into question but apparently her 1940ism! Hodder have decided that young readers today have their enjoyment of the stories totally ruined by having to get their heads around such archaic expressions as "Mercy me!", "fellow" (I kid you not) and "it's all very peculiar". These will now apparently be replaced with "Oh no!", "old man" and "it's all very strange". Other planned changes include Dick's plaintive exclamation about George "she must be jolly lonely all by herself!" being now rendered as "she must get lonely all by herself", "housemistress" being reduced to "teacher" and "dirty tinker" being scrubbed up and de-pejorated to "traveller".

I'm not sure that I don't find this bowdlerisation actually even more offensive than that already carried out for reasons of political correctness. And how insulting is it to the intelligence of today's children! It's all very peculiar indeed ...
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 14:17

The good news is that Hodder, while for some reason rechristening Nobby to Ned in "Five Go Off In A Caravan" (why, were they dead?), will however leave Dick and Fanny intact.

I've just noticed also that the news item I read is actually from 2010. I assume the dastardly deed's been done so ... poor Nobby.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 14:20

To judge from the foodstuff, Dick could well have become "pudding" - "Richard" at best.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 14:30

Dick Pudding sounds quite nice actually.

In "The Secret Seven" books there was always someone down in the dumps and feeling a little queer, I recall. The others however would all jolly well rally round and make them gay again.

Of course today's young readers will be spared such unintentionally brilliant prose thanks to Hodder. Their loss, I fear.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 19:38

Who was Fanny?  Was she an incidental character in a "Five" book?  The ones I remember are Julian and Dick, Georgina known as George, the cross-dresser (we were all so innocent then - well I was) and Anne the drippy one and Timothy the dog.  I'm sure earlier in the thread somebody said that Fanny in "The Enchanted Wood" [same author, different series] had been changed to Frannie. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but to be honest I did enjoy the Famous Five books when I was in top infants and lower juniors and I think I said earlier on this thread that they were the books that revealed to me that reading was actually something that could be enjoyed rather than a chore.  I remember in the 1990s having a laugh at work with some colleagues when the Noddy books were overhauled ....  Big Ears no longer spanked Noddy but I believe they still slept together sometimes.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 02 Apr 2014, 22:22

Fanny in the Famous Five books is George's mother and the aunt of Julian, Dick and Anne. She is the wife of mad Uncle Quentin.

Fanny, now Frannie in Newspeak, is one of the children in the Magic Faraway Tree books. She is the sister of Jo (now Joe) and of Bessie (now Beth). They have a cousin Dick (now Rick). The following is from a poster on the Enid Blyton site:

Frannie and Rick, formerly known as Fanny and Dick, were given their new names because their old ones are now more commonly used as slang words for genitalia (and buttocks, if you're American). "Bessie" was replaced by "Beth" because "Bessie" (or "Bess") is believed by some to be a stereotypical name for black women (usually impoverished, overweight prostitutes from Harlem, New York) and therefore carries racist overtones. "Dame Slap" is now "Dame Snap", and punishes misbehaviour by yelling at the culprits rather than slapping them, because we can't allow corporal punishment in children's books any more...

The spelling of Jo's name was changed to Joe because of possible dispute/distress over Jo's sexual orientation (he is a boy).


I'm surprised they still allow the following characters who all clearly have problems requiring medication, psychiatric help and/or cognitive behavioural therapy. From Wiki:

The Angry Pixie, who lives in a house with a tiny window and has a habit of throwing cold water or any liquid at hand over people who dare to peep inside.

Mr.Watzisname cannot remember his name. He sleeps and snores all the time. During a particular story at the Land of Secrets, Mr. Watzisname discovers that his name is 'Kollamoolitumarellipawkyrollo'. This is forgotten by the end of the story and he goes back to being Mr. Watzisname.

Dame Washalot, who spends her time washing her clothes and throwing the dirty wash water down the tree. If she has no clothes to wash, she washes other people's laundry and even the leaves of the Magic Faraway Tree.







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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 03:42

Are there not issues with copyright when you change things like this?  Enid Blyton's work must still be within copyright period.  I think the period in Britain is 70 years from the author's death.  (50 years in NZ.) She only died in 1968 from what I see.  Or are you allowed to change a certain amount of a book?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 09:18

Standard contracts between authors and publishers include the right of the publisher to copy-edit the work to best tailor it for a particular market. This can be undertaken prior to any subsequent re-release or new edition. It does not affect copywright or ownership and it is not unheard of for an author to refuse republication due to dissatisfaction with a suggested edit. In the case of a dead author it is down to the managers of their estate what happens. I am not sure how Blyton's estate was arranged with regard to her literary output but it would appear that whoever is looking after it agrees with the requirement to re-edit.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 09:50

Quote :
 "Bessie" was replaced by "Beth" because "Bessie" (or "Bess") is believed by some to be a stereotypical name for black women (usually impoverished, overweight prostitutes from Harlem, New York) and therefore carries racist overtones.


Bess or Bessie is going to be problematic in the study of Englsh history then. I do hope our young American friends do not confuse Elizabeth of York with an impoverished, overweight prostitute from Harlem.

The Song of Lady Bessy
  The Song of Lady Bessy is one of several ballads inspired by the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD. The poem was written by someone associated with the Stanley family, for Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, and his brother Sir William STANLEY are central characters. A possible author is Humphrey Brereton, who hailed from the Stanley-dominated county of Cheshire and who also figures prominently in the story. Although the earliest extant text of the ballad dates from about 1600, and many of the poem’s more romantic touches seem Elizabethan in origin, The Song of Lady Bessy was probably written during the reign of HENRY VII (1485–1509), for it ends by praying God to “save and keep our comely Queen,” Henry VII’s wife ELIZABETH OF YORK, the “Lady Bessy” of the title.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 10:07

And as for Dick Turpin mounting Black Bess and whipping her as he rides her to York........
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 10:12

@ferval wrote:
And as for Dick Turpin mounting Black Bess and whipping her as he rides her to York........


Oh, ferval, honestly...

  Shocked 

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 11:20

Did Dick Turpin actually ride a horse called Black Bess or was that all part of Harrison Ainsworth's imagination? I did read the book eons ago and I also read "Old St Paul's".  I found Ainsworth hard going though I understand he was very popular in his day.  I can't remember the nitty-gritty of "Old St Paul's" but I remember it had the hackneyed literary device of the girl of low class turning out to be a posh bird really (kidnapped at birth or shortly after, something like that).  I personally hate that device; it seems to imply that someone of low birth cannot be a person of worth.

Banning "Bess" could cause confusion in the UK at least considering we have some historic ladies named Bess of note.  "Good Queen Bess" and Bess of Hardwick (sp?) come to mind.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 13:37

@LadyinRetirement wrote:


Banning "Bess" could cause confusion in the UK at least considering we have some historic ladies named Bess of note.  "Good Queen Bess" and Bess of Hardwick (sp?) come to mind.


Bess Throckmorton and Bessie Braddock too.

Not forgetting Bessie Wallis Simpson.

Wasn't there a fire engine called Bessie in Fireman Sam?

This is all so silly.

Makes me think of James Finn Garner's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories which were so popular in the 1990s. The satire's a bit dated now, but I still remember Little Red Riding Hood's sensitive handling of the Big Bad Wolf (also the woodsman being a log technician):

http://www.bizbag.com/Politically%20Correct/PC%20Bedtimes%20Stories%20%20Little%20Red%20Riding%20Hood.htm

The Wolf said, “You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.”

Red Riding Hood said, “I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid worldview. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way.”


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 15:00

@Temperance wrote:
@ferval wrote:
And as for Dick Turpin mounting Black Bess and whipping her as he rides her to York........


Oh, ferval, honestly...

  Shocked 


We can imagine what Snowhite* and the Seven Dwarves got up to.


*"I used to be Snowhite, but I drifted".... Mae West
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 15:05

@Triceratops wrote:



We can imagine what Snowhite* and the Seven Dwarves got up to.


*"I used to be Snowhite, but I drifted".... Mae West

Or as the 1980s advert put it:

 "Snow-White thought 7-Up was a drink ... until she discovered Smirnoff!"  Embarassed 
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 15:16

Both of you - naughty pillar - NOW.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 03 Apr 2014, 18:20

Whilst I find it difficult to get too uptight about butchering Blyton, I just don't see the point of all this stuff. What have they done to Conrad's "Nigger of the Narcissus"? Any ideas? Long Restroom Silver next, perhaps?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 06:37

I haven't read the Conrad book. Being forced to read Nostromo and The Rover at school put me off wanting to read Conrad for life.  Nostromo was the one I loathed more, though apparently if he had lived longer the late David Lean would have made a film of the book. I realise that Gilgamesh's point is about political correctness gone mad not Conrad's literary merit though.  I never saw Apocolypse Now though I have heard good things about it but the fact it's based on a Conrad book deters me (Heart of Darkness being the book). The extract Temperance posted from the 1990s "politically correct" Little Red Riding Hood is [to me at least] a lot more entertaining than the TV show Once Upon a Time re-imagining of fairy-tales; don't I just wish someone WOULD kick "kick-ass" Snow White's situpon and as for that whiney kid.....
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 07:46

@Gilgamesh of Uruk wrote:
What have they done to Conrad's "Nigger of the Narcissus"? Any ideas?


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3561050/How-The-Nigger-of-the-Narcissus-got-its-name.html

The title is obviously problematic to modern ears - Chinua Achebe charged Conrad with out-and-out racism - and was thought so in America on publication, where it was changed to "The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle".

PS The character referred to in the title, James Wait, was a real man: a West Indian called Joseph Barron.

PPS This comment is from Wiki: In the United States, the novel was first published with the title "The Children of the Sea: A Tale of the Forecastle", at the insistence by the publisher, Dodd, Mead and Company, that no one would buy or read a book with the word nigger in its title, not because the word was deemed offensive but that a book about a black man would not sell.

"Would not sell" - ah.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 07:53

I'm with you, LIR.  I must have taken an option to do Conrad at university since I seem to recall reading about 6 of his books.  He is one author I have no desire to read again.  Do you think he appeals more to males?  But I doubt if he was racist in the sense of feeling superior.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 08:07

In terms of what we learnt as children though Conrad definitely fits the "Ugh, so that's what grown-ups think is good literature then?" category. I remember coming to a definite conclusion that I was obviously too young to "get" what the guy was about and that I should return to him later in life after I'd first notched up a few experiences battling alcoholism, high seas, African wildlife, women and other assorted vicissitudes. This I duly did, only to find that my gut feeling as a youngster had been right all along. Self obsession - especially in American books - had become the requisite criterion for defining "modern" literature.

Frankly such stuff is of very limited appeal to me - living in other people's heads and mind-sets is all very well but can certainly put one off breakfast. Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway and several others were therefore treated with some caution and minimal appreciation from that point on, something for which I suppose I should feel grateful to Conrad for. Having been the first to alert me to that great literary con-job that passed for "brilliant" American writing at the time I was saved much tedium later.

On the downside it meant that I entered the world of Steinbeck, Scott Fitzgerald, Robbins (Tom, not Harold), Jong and a few others with much more trepidation than they deserved and therefore denied myself some treats I could have had sooner in life.

Thanks Joseph.

PS: Just remembered. At a Q&A session after a lecture about American Literature one time Conrad came up. The consensus on the floor was that Joseph Conrad (and Jack London) should be viewed first and foremost as adolescent fantasists who never grew up rather than literary giants, whereas the lecturer was adamant they belonged to a great American literary tradition that started with "immigrant" sentimentalities being imported into an English speaking environment, thus creating a beautiful hybrid. Conrad was the best example of such an import, he said, English being his second language and therefore inclined to produce short sharp sentences, a style quickly adopted by many others and ideal for recording innermost thoughts narrated in the first person singular, the definitive feature of great American literature. To which a weary voice near me exclaimed loud enough for the hall to hear "Where the f**k were you when that twat Henry James first put pen to paper?".
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 13:55

@nordmann wrote:
To which a weary voice near me exclaimed loud enough for the hall to hear "Where the f**k were you when that twat Henry James first put pen to paper?".


   Very Happy  

We were told by a lecturer to remember always that Conrad was Polish. He added: "A brave nation, but one whose people have for generations queued miserably for sausages." I think it was a comment on the bleak content of Conrad's novels, not his prose style, but I'm not sure. I've only read Heart of Darkness -  couldn't cope with anything else.



Last edited by Temperance on Sat 05 Apr 2014, 08:28; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : adjusted an adverb, like you do.)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 14:33

Chopin's Opus 62 Number 3 "A Little Light Cumberland" betrays this heritage, I have always thought.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 14:49

@Caro wrote:
I'm with you, LIR.  I must have taken an option to do Conrad at university since I seem to recall reading about 6 of his books.  He is one author I have no desire to read again.  Do you think he appeals more to males?  But I doubt if he was racist in the sense of feeling superior.

From what I remember [bearing in mind this is going back 47/48 years I dread to say] from my background reading as a schoolgirl it appeared Conrad led quite an interesting life; one of his girlfriends was a former mistress of I think somebody in the Spanish royal family.  He just was not good at writing about life. I looked on Wikipedia and Scott Fitzgerald apparently said he wished he had written "Nostromo".  I have never read any of Scott Fitzgerald's works, mind.  I had to study Henry James at one point and in reference to what Nordmann overheard, I didn't mind Henry James that much.  Caro, you must indeed have stoicism to have studied so many of Conrad's books.  I agree he was probably not racist.  And thanks Temperance for giving us a bit of a laugh with the insertion about the sausages.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 15:16

Henry James is best read vicariously, as dramatisations (severely pruned) IMO. My first exposure to Conrad was "Typhoon" and "Youth" (at least partly autobiographical) but I took the Chaucer option for "O" level as it allowed me to avoid NotN. Equally, Jack London's "People of the Abyss" which I read alongside Orwell's non-fiction, "A child of the Jago" and "Hooligan nights" appealed much more than the much-vaunted "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild" which were inflicted on us via the school Reading Scheme.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 04 Apr 2014, 20:47

If anyone mentions a writer reminding them of Henry James (or if anyone reminds me of him) I run a mile.  But people who read more carefully than I do and like these what seem to me interminable analyses of thought value him highly, and I value their thoughts, so assume it is just my laziness.

Generally I quite like books where I live in other people's heads and mindsets (though I had to put Lolita aside, having found Humbert's company not to my liking, though not because of the paedophiliac tendencies, just the general attitude to women) but I don't like every thought and action being pulled to pieces. Or changing inconsistently.  I had a bit of trouble with Anna in Anna Karenina for chopping and changing every second. 

Off the subject, sorry.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 08:26

Henry James is like mouldy blue cheese. To appreciate him fully one apparently needs "a mature palate" (which sounds a dreadful thing to have).

I'm not there yet: I hate stinky cheese and Henry James.

But the old (1949) black and white film of The Heiress, based on James's Washington Square, was really good. Superb cast - Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson. I still remember the final line. When asked how she can be so cruel, Olivia de Havilland's character, Catherine Sloper, replies: "I have been taught by masters."

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 05 Apr 2014, 22:57

My husband and I love stinky soft cheese and will happily buy that lovely Normandy cheese.  But our children seem to have an aversion to having it in their fridges.  Too bad for them.  They throw out most of the stuff in their fridges after a week or two anyway, and then carefully buy the same stuff again.  Very wasteful people.  (My husband grated the last of the parmesan cheese last night and we didn't eat the final teaspoonful, so he has carefully put it in a plastic container so as not to waste it. Didn't go through the depression and we aren't really hard up and only moderately environmentally aware, so I am not sure where this obsession with not wasting anything comes from.)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 06 Apr 2014, 09:41

@Caro wrote:

I am not sure where this obsession with not wasting anything comes from

Probably not from children's literature, the theme of the thread.

Though learning to be careful with things is certainly something that might have been reinforced through what one read as a child. One of my favourite books at a young age was a translation of Erich Kästner's "Emil and the Detectives", not least I suppose because the story centres on a young boy (Emil) attempting to recover money he had been entrusted to deliver to his grandmother and which he had lost - a scenario that mirrored one particularly traumatic incident in my own young life at the time. In the end, after several adventures along the way, the money with interest is delivered to the granny who then provides just about the only "moral" in the tale ("Emil", written in 1925, was years ahead of its time in children's literature in that it contained no moral direction, overt or implied, regarding "good" or "bad" behaviour). Upon receiving the sum she says to Emil "Let that be a lesson to you. Never send cash. Always use the postal services." A particularly practical piece of advice that I have taken very much to heart ever since.

Kästner's books, including several about Emil with the exception of this first one, were all banned and burnt by the Nazis. His children operated in their own world and on their own terms, something an authoritarian state could not abide. "Detectives" survived burning only because it had already become a popular and integral part of many people's own childhoods by the time the thugs took control. Even Nazis knew there was some shit one just did not mess with.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 07 Apr 2014, 14:09

Now this was originally a children's book;



I watched the film Shrek II on Saturday evening and was in stitches at their antics.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 20:09

Does anyone else here remember "The Singing, Ringing Tree" ... a black-and-white TV import from Eastern Europe from the late 1960s/early 1970s? It was shown on BBC, I think, as part of children's hour but was fascinatingly dark, creepy, scary and mysterious. That said it might have been ITV ... they did tend more towards the dark side, even then.

I thought it fantastic, in all senses of the word, but I suspect it was eventually deemed far too dark and disturbing for the tender minds of western european childen, and so got pulled.

I tried to find a Youtube of the original but couldn't ... but there are several spoofs, so clearly I'm not the only one for whom it remains memorable. I loved it ... though never really understood it, but it certainly left it's mark on my subconsious.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 20:40

No spoof this bit:



They are very proud of this film in Potsdam!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 20:46

It was in originally in colour!?  Wow! So I guess it was just us who still only had a black-and-white TV.

But yup that's the one, thanks, ... and with the scary dwarf peeking out from hidden places, I remember that. But the bear/man ... I'd forgotten him ... although now I think on it wasn't he a prince, or a woodcutter, or something ...  that's been cursed to live as a bear ... ? Gosh, just that small clip takes me back.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 20:51

Yes, and she got uglier (?) as long as he didn't suss out the real magic of the tree.- For me it wasn't scary stuff (except for the voice overs) but terribly fresh compared to Snagglepuss, Paddington etc.

Remember Sugarpuff (he live in the jungle)? Christ! How did we ever survive?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 20:55

@nordmann wrote:
They are very proud of this film in Potsdam!

And so they should be ... it's indelibly branded into the psyche of a generation of children ... in England, Belgium, Holland, France,... and many other places too, I'm sure.

Eastern European "childrens" cartoons were quite something too weren't they!

PS : I'm sure 'Snagglepuss' and 'Paddington' were much later ... But round about 1970, 'The Banana Splits' (American import) and 'The Double Deckers' (home grown English) were disturbing enough for a young impressionable mind.


Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 11 Apr 2014, 21:06; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Fri 11 Apr 2014, 21:03

Yes, because they were never just humour and also wanted sometimes to cock a snoot at authoritarianism under their employers' radar. Professor Balthazar is still a huge kids TV thing here in Norway, and don't even BEGIN to slag Lolek & Bolek!

btw - that should have been Sugarball and not Sugarpuff above. Sorry, I was in HR mode.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 08:35

I'd quite forgotten "The Singing Ringing Tree". There was a kids' programme on Channel 5 a few years ago "Mio Mao" about two plastic kittens which reminded me of some of the things Tony Hart used to do  (eg "Morph). The cat characters I can remember from way back (other than Mr Twink who I may have alluded to earlier in the thread) are Prudence Kitten and Princess Tai-Lu and don't let's forget "I'm Mitten the Kitten, the Kitten with a mitten, I'm Mitten the Kitten, yo-ho".  In my teenage years I remember Herge's "Adventures of Tintin" originally being screened with an English (accent) voiceover and then the Yanks got their hands on the Anglophone side of the franchise and the next series had Captain Haddock speaking with a dreadful stage Irish accent and Tintin speaking Yank! Lest anyone think I am solely up for bashing the Yanks, I had a soft spot for Yogi Bear giving the park rangers the runaround.  I don't know if it's still on TV but kids seemed to have a soft spot for "Lazytown" (I remember a younger work colleague getting a Stephanie dress for her daughter) even though it had  the moral of get up and exercise.  I rather liked "Noggin the Nog" in times gone by also. I don't know if I learned anything from these tales but it is nice to watch/read things for entertainment sometimes.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 08:55

@meles meles wrote:

I thought it fantastic, in all senses of the word, but I suspect it was eventually deemed far too dark and disturbing for the tender minds of western european childen, and so got pulled.



Interesting, different people's reaction to it.

I'd never seen it before - but I found that clip extremely disturbing: I obviously have a "tender" mind. From the dates you gave I thought it was druggy 1970s stuff at first, but no, it was made in 1957(?).

Being stuck in that frozen lake has really got to me. Wish I hadn't watched it now.

The German psyche can be very grim - the whole thing reminds me unaccountably of a line from I, Claudius - bit where Augustus says that those dark forests "can do something to a man's mind."
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 10:50

It was made as a film and shown in East German cinemas. I think it became a five part series when sold to TV stations later. It's a Christmas favourite in some places still. The ending is actually quite novel for a fairy tale, and not dark at all. Everyone settles for what they have left even after screwing up big time while trying to achieve things which proved beyond them (like good little communists I suppose - or Christians maybe).
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 11:31

@nordmann wrote:
Everyone settles for what they have left even after screwing up big time while trying to achieve things which proved beyond them (like good little communists I suppose - or Christians maybe).


Even that comment is revealing. Why Christians particularly? My immediate thought was - " Like everybody." What else is there to do? Drink and curse the gods, I suppose.

A psychiatrist would have a field day with it.

The dwarf with the icy breath is very frightening. Makes me want to run - get out of the forest and quick. Perhaps a typical cowardly "Christian" reaction to a perceived threat - of death? I have no idea. But then perhaps it's a perfectly normal reaction; he is horrible.

I'm glad I didn't watch it when I was nine or ten - it's bad enough now.

EDIT: just found this:

366WeirdMovies.com The Singing Ringing Tree
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 11:52

Christian because it's a Christmas favourite now? I don't know - the point of Christians defeats me at times, but I assume it's them what decided. Wasn't me guv.

The dwarf is a bad 'un, alright. Or is his scheme all along to encourage the princess towards her own salvation through good deeds? Is he a Christian in disguise? Hmm, the thot plickens!

They kill the magic tree by the way.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 12:10

The Singing Ringing Tree, and Märchenfilme in general, had nothing to do with Socialist Realism, the official aesthetic of Communist countries. Tree deals, instead, with the romantic problems of the long-gone aristocracy, which is about as far from the struggle of the proletariat as you can get. The “Beauty and the Beast” meets “Taming of the Shrew” plot shows nostalgia for a patriarchal sexual order which Communism believed itself to be well past. The Princess is presented as haughty and arrogant because she refuses to marry a random stranger who tries to buy her love with a jewellery box full of pearls. She doesn’t need a man in her life; but when the Prince is transformed into a sexual beast (in a display of masculine potency, he hurls a phallic spear clear through a knot in a split tree), he seizes her and takes her to his cave (and presumably his bed) by force. Once captive, she is revealed as ugly because she is not suitably submissive. She is then trained to put others’ needs ahead of her own. Once she abases herself and becomes a servant to the Bear and the creatures of the forest, she regains her beauty and sexual desirability, and the Bear transforms from the rampaging beast she feared into a handsome companion. True, that patriarchy-reinforcing reading is a sour way of looking at the moral, which on its surface is a simply tale about learning to grow through love and self-sacrifice, but looking at it this way helps to illustrate how cluelessly but defiantly un-Marxist this reactionary fairy tale is. It’s not surprising that many socialist critics hated this film, considering it bourgeois.

Crikey.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 12:22

Good link, Temp. Buried in there is a further link to this old archived Radio 4 programme looking back at MM's generation's trauma. It downloads a ram file that can be played in Real Player.

Archived BBC Radio 4 programme The Singing Ringing Tree (2002)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 14:22

What is the source of the link in your 11.31 post of today's date, Temperance?  I don't know whether it is because I am using Windows 7 on this computer (the laptop still has XP), but the link is not showing - only the wording that has been pasted.  Whether one has a religion or none, my understanding is that "fight or flight" when faced with a threat is a normal reaction.  The loss of beauty reminds me of the Medieval take on the Arthurian legend "Gawain and the Green Knight" - only in that version we don't know why the girl lost her beauty and it's Gawain by being noble and bringing himself to kiss the ugly bird who returns her to normality.  Trike alluded to "Shrek" on this thread a few days ago.  I've never seen that film but I know someone that has.  Doesn't that film reverse the idea of the pretty girl made ugly being returned to her beauteous former state by having the princess change into a green ogress to be like the Shrek of the title?   I seem to be in a minority of one in having liked the silhouette puppet films of Lotte Reiniger way back when...but I'm linking one of them anyway.

  
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 12 Apr 2014, 14:24

.. And another Lotte Reiniger short.  A "post early for Christmas" advert this time.  I was less than a year old in December 1949 so it didn't have any effect on me at the time.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 13 Apr 2014, 08:54

LiR - just google The Ringing Singing Tree weird movies and the site should come up there, top of the list.

MM - you can get a digitally remastered DVD of "The German Classic That Haunted a Generation" from Amazon; it's only a fiver. You could buy it for your 2014 Christmas box. The reviews (about ninety) are interesting.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 13 Apr 2014, 11:05

Oh, thank you so much for the info, Temperance.  To be fair, it wasn't just the Communists who told stories "with a moral" or "with a point".  In second year infants, (I was at a non-denominational school for the first year) at my Catholic primary school, we had a teacher who was very keen on a book called "Six O'clock Saints", some of which saints had very gory martyrdoms, not really what I would choose [with the hindsight of adulthood] to read to six and seven year olds.  I'm not sure which saint it was, but she (at the age of about 12) had been given the choice of renouncing Christianity and worshipping Minerva or being boiled in oil.  The saint in question prevaricated and initially worshipped Minerva but did retract and so met the gristly fate.  The teacher thought the sai8nt was very naughty for having prevaricated.  I don't know that the teacher had ever faced such an unpleasant fate to make a judgement.  I know most people following this website aren't religious so I hasten to add Catholic teachers are not like that now.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 13 Apr 2014, 13:33

@Temperance wrote:
The dwarf with the icy breath is very frightening. Makes me want to run - get out of the forest and quick.

Unfortunately, Temp, I think the dwarf had other tricks to keep her captive ... including a spontaneous wall of flame and a rapidly-growing hedge of inpenetrable thorn, if memory serves me aright.

@Temperance wrote:
The German psyche can be very grim ...

Was that a deliberate quip or a Freudian slip? But yes, many of the traditional tales recorded by the brothers Grimm are indeed, well, grim. And, though I'd have to dig out my battered old copy to find examples, I think that many are not actually that moralistic. Yes there are the tales to warn children against accepting treats from strangers, against playing near deep water, and against walking alone with baskets of succulent-smelling goodies through bear and wolf infested forests (clearly Ms Petite Chaperon Rouge had never been hiking in the National Parks of, say, the Rockies, to have missed that oft-repeated message from the US park rangers. Duh!) ... But there are also tales in which people suffer through no fault of their own and never get recompense; children get orphaned and their parents, however loving and good they might have been, do not come back to life; sometimes people who strive to help others through simple humanity often get shafted; and even princesses, however wise, kind and good-intentioned they may be, still sometimes get humbled and just have to make the best of their future lot.

In short many of these traditional tales reflect the reality of life, in that it can sometimes be casually nasty, brutal and unfair.  But then that is probably a lesson well worth learning too. Despite what we might like to believe, history tends to show that those who strive to be either saints, or sinners, often do NOT get their just desserts. So what chance for the rest of us, eh?

PS : Thanks for the tip-off about the Singing, Ringing Tree on DVD ... it's now on order from Amazon and, as you suggested, destined for mein 2014 Schadenfreudefestfeld.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 13 Apr 2014, 15:21

I've just typed and lost a great long homily - probably just as well  Suspect . Here's a resume. Yep, life is nasty, brutal, cruel and unfair; we all know that, and children get the general idea pretty early on. But then again, they surely need to be taught also that there is something else - goodness, kindness, decency -  call it what you will - and that that something can sometimes be found  in the most surprising places - like in the Wild Wood itself, for instance.

Oscar Wilde, who was usually right, did of course have one of his characters say: "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.” Children know that most happy endings are fiction, but they have the knack - the lucky ones that is - of still hoping that somehow things will work out. Humankind cannot bear very much reality - and that's certainly true of young humans. (Oscar, of course, wrote some lovely stories for children. The Selfish Giant is my favourite.)

PS Ah, Schadenfreudefest - you liked that, didn't you?  Smile 

PPS I am now worried that, because I said I wanted to run away from the Evil Dwarf, you will all think that I would have abandoned the poor, trapped goldfish. I wouldn't: I would have tried to free him before legging it. Knowing my luck, though, the ice would have cracked and I'd have fallen into the icy lake and drowned.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 13 Apr 2014, 15:37

Just realised you've edited your message, MM - so mine sounds as if I hadn't read yours - well, I hadn't, not the edited version.

Yep, of course decent people do get "shafted", as you say, all the time. But surely if we give up trying - and give up trying to teach children via stories and films to keep trying - we've had it?
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