Once Upon A Time

It’s story hour in The Library and everyone has come to listen to the tales and stories. Mrs Pearl is the centre of attention, reading from Wilhelm Busch’s story book to the children, about the pranks of Max & Moritz and the bad end the mischievous duo had in the end.

Everyone’s listening intently, the delicate Ophelia is already feeling a bit dizzy from hearing about the wicked boys’ little crimes and Blacky the sheep, who is usually blamed for everything that goes wrong anyway, has taken the precaution of hiding behind the book cart and is enjyoing the story from a safe distance, out of eyesight. Just in case. You never know.

 Max und Moritz

Ach was muss man oft von bösen
Kindern hören oder lesen!
Wie zum Beispiel hier von diesen,
Welche Max und Moritz hiessen.
Die, anstatt durch weise Lehren
Sich zum Guten zu bekehren,
Oftmals noch darüber lachten
Und sich heimlich lustig machten. –
– Ja, zur Überltätigkeit,
Ja, dazu ist man bereit! –
– Menschen necken, Tiere quälen,
Äpfel, Birnen, Zwetschen stehlen –
Das ist freilich angenehmer
Und dazu auch viel bequemer,
Als in Kirche oder Schule
Festzusitzen auf dem Stuhle. –
– Aber wehe, wehe, wehe,
Wenn ich auf das Ende sehe!! –
Ach, das war ein schlimmes Ding,
Wie es Max und Moritz ging.
– Darum ist hier, was sie getrieben,
Abgemalt und aufgeschrieben.

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) and her delightful stories were hardly known here when I grew up. I only got to know her as an adult. My childhood companions were the characters from the fairy-tales by the Brothers Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm, Astrid Lindgrens (1907-2002)  “Pippi Langstrumpf” and other books, and the stories by German author Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908), most of all his that about the famours, or rather infamous rascals Max & Moritz, which was first published in 1865. Written in rhyming couplets and wonderfully illustrated, I absolutely loved them. They are quite cruel at times, really (as are many fairy tales) but we never noticed that as children, they were (and still are)  just so wonderfully funny.

The big green Wilhelm Busch book with all his stories belonged to my grandparents who kept it for me to read when I visited. My grandparents have died long ago and the book is now one of my cherished treasures (even though it is not a 19th century original but a 1970s reprint), full of memories – and great stories.

I don’t know how well known (if at all) Wilhelm Busch is in the English speaking world. If you don’t know them, you can read a bit about Max & Moritz here (there’s also an English translation of the above preface to the story).

To be continued…

Textures by les brumes and Shadowhouse Creations  //


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