Thursday, April 5, 2012

And Here's Another Story Where Everyone Dies

Why is everything so grim even when it's supposed to be light and fluffy?

Yesterday I found myself at the the end of telling my kids the story of the Pied Piper and then realizing it sounds horrible. My daughter was playing a crapy recorder and it prompted me to jump into the Pied Piper of Hamelin story without me thinking about it properly first. My kids like stories so they stopped goofing around and listened. And became confused. My daughter - who just learned that a weird man abducted the entire town's kids - stared and waited for me to finish up with something like, "and then everyone went home, had some cake and made a fortress out of whipped cream." But I didn't say that. Because that's not how the story goes. I'm not sure what I was hoping to get out of telling it. Later on though - after reading through a little book about rhymes with similar apocalyptic and confusing little stories that may or may not be about massacres and mass death via disease - I spent thirty minutes or so plowing through explanations of all these in the hope that today I could indeed tell my kids that the Pied Piper story did end with a lot of cake and games. It didn't though. A quick summary would be that early versions may indicate hundreds of kids being beheaded on a German hill and enduring pain so awful that it can only be compared to Christ's unimaginable pain when amalgamating all the known sins of mankind on the cross. Oh dear. Wait! There's an alternative interpretation!! Hallelujah!!! Here's hoping they all went to a bakery for treats!!! Oh - it suggests that it's possible that in the Middle Ages a man in the German town of Hamelin was publicly executed for molesting hundreds of kids. No cake and dancing then. 

Why do I not recall this being exclusively morbid, adult and awful then? In fact all these playful rhymes and stories are like this. The little nursery rhyme book my son has wanted read each night was bothering me already due to the litany of playful rhyming based on accidents, mortal circumstances and accounts of disease destroying half of continental Europe. My son likes the pictures in the Jack and Jill story a lot which show Jack - clearly with his spine broken judging by the fact that his legs are bent over the back of his own head - looking on as the little girl following him appears to be about to come crashing down the hill herself. It's not clear if her loss of balance is purely because the hill is steep, the bucket of water is too heavy or if she's just so horrified by the massive head trauma Jack has suffered that she can't concentrate on walking properly. Whichiver the reason - my son likes the picture of them falling over. Slapstick always wins I guess. Luckily this version of the book doesn't include the weird second verse about some old lady who, "patched his nob with vinegar and brown paper." I really hope you already know about that verse and don't think I've made it up. I for one am glad there are no pictures of it in the book at least. Anyway the point is that a lot of amusing stories to be told to kids appear to be about such delightful topics as infanticide (The Pied Piper), worldwide plague and death, (Ring a Ring a Roses), head wounds and unusual condom-design (Jack and Jill) or the bizarre fruitless and hopeless attempts of the brightest and best to save the life of what appears to be a suicide victim (Humpty Dumpty). It's all very grim and disturbing. My daughter even threw me off guard yesterday when she brought me one of the illustrated kid's Bible we have on the shelves and we plopped it open and I didn't get five words in before the concept of death reared it's pleasant head again. Time and place - and I wasn't in the mood for all this seriousness. I know it's Easter and Christians the world over are carefully considering what the whole thing means. But no - more balloons, giggles and stories about people who got ice cream because everything is so ace please.

Hence we spent quit a bit of time yesterday being overtly nonsensical to plow some innocence and silliness into the day. My favorite part being getting us all socks to wear on our hands and underpants for hats and pretending that a monster (a mischievous one - and not one that promotes abuse and death) had cast a spell on us turning our hands into feet and our heads into bum cheeks. And the only way we could escape was to to either try and drive away in our fire engine, or to pretend to be elephants. Seemed nonsensical enough to me anyway. Oddly my daughter ended up realizing half way through this that this sort of thing shouldn't happen to her because she's really the Easter Bunny. As in - she has no idea where my actual daughter is (hopefully not spirited away by dodgy Germans with flutes or rat-nip one would hope) and that we have been playing with the Easter Bunny all along. And that I should have known this because she was clearly dressed like the Easter Bunny. Who - presumably when, "off-duty" wears tights, dresses, pastel-Hippy shirts, shoes that make you fall down and a dress that makes the whole ensemble look like someone's puked blancmange on a flamingo. So like this -:

Now that is a crap photo - but bear in mind she wouldn't let me take her picture because if people were to find out what the Easter bunny looks like (presumably in an expose in Hello magazine or some such gutter publication) then the magic of Easter will be ruined. Earlier at breakfast she'd made this point too - when commenting that people would be surprised to learn that the Easter bunny doesn't eat eggs, carrots or chocolate (worst omelet ever, by the way) - but Cheerio's and honey. Actually that one was my fault. I pretend to be simplistic and an idiot (honest....) when she asks for breakfast and go through a series of things that sound a bit like what she asked for, but are in fact silly and wrong. So if she wants a bagel and cream cheese and remind her that she wants a baby with clean bees. It's not very big or clever but she likes it. Today she asked for Cheerios and honey though. So I offered her some Cheerios and money. At some point I asked her if she wanted Cheerios and the Easter Bunny and she thought that was suitably ridiculous. Which is good - because she could have become worried that I was going to kill the Easter Bunny and gush his entrails all over her breakfast. Instead she went for the option of officially declaring that Cheerios and honey was his (I'm assuming that it's a, "He" Could be a lady bunny I suppose, but consider that in my daughter's head someone in the bunny-family is laying chocolate eggs - and that's likely to be a She) breakfast of choice.

Thankfully my wife intervened and got the honey out. She got some honey on her finger though which prompted my daughter's Super Helpful Advice Of The Day. Which was, "Mommy - remember - if you don't want to go to work with honey on your finger then all you have to do is suck it off."

A life lesson for us all there, I feel.

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