Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tangential Recollections: Non-Comic Related

This isn't really comic related, but it popped into my head while talking with my friend today, so I decided to post about it.

When I was in high-school I took three years of German language classes. Well, four technically, but we didn't learn much the first year on account of that teacher's nervous wasn't her fault, she was a very young German school-teacher really really not used to the atmosphere of an American school. And we were terrors.

Anyway, it was a pretty standard class up until my third or fourth year, standard study materials, text books, the like. The last year though, my teacher (a strict older woman with a doctorate in German literature and no patience for nonsense) decided to try something different. She'd had this children's book, retelling these rhyming folktales about two mischievous kids, complete with cute illustrations. She decided we'd read those primarily through the semester, learning context and vocabulary from them and supplimental materials rather than a text book.

The folktales/stories were about these kids named Max and Moritz, and they'd focus on their crazy mischievous schemes that would sometimes backfire but usually create triumphant chaos throughout their village. We liked the stories. Or at least, thought they were lame but cute. Considering we were teenagers, that was probably as close to a ringing endorsement as anyone's likely to get. They were silly and predictable, always ending the same way, with a singsong cadence and final happy illustration of the two kids skipping away, hand in hand

We got the stories in class on Monday, read them together, and studied the vocabulary and context and other fun things for the rest of the week. We never had the chance to read ahead and honestly, they were so predictable that none of us really thought about it.

Then we got to the last story of the semester. Yet more of the same old thing, Max and Moritz pulled a prank, people got mad, chaos ensued.

Except that Max and Moritz ended up hiding in a couple of flour sacks. (This was charmingly illustrated so we could see Moritz's hair sticking out cutely). Whereupon the miller, a frequent victim in the pranks, threw the sacks in the wheat thresher.

The end came with the same cute singsong ending and an illustration in which large grains formed the outline of both boys, including Moritz's cute tufts of hair...hand in hand.

The reaction of our class was impossible to relate. Our minds were blown, completely and utterly. This was not what was supposed to happen! I think we spent the rest of that week in an utter uncomprehending daze.

It was amazing really, an entire class of cynical and too-cool 16 and 17 year olds, grown up on Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy, Chucky and the like were all traumatized by a children's story. Frau Marlow, who may have been evil, was beside herself with glee. Like the miller in the story, she'd gotten her revenge on all the crap we'd put her through. She got us good.

I've actually thought about reading the stories again, but it's been six or seven years now. My German has descended to all but nil. And it really wouldn't be the same in English. Besides, I may not remember the stories themselves, but I will probably never forget that carefully drawn grain-outline as long as I live.

Sometimes I wonder if this hasn't some how influenced my comic reading sensibilities. (It's not traumatizing enough child murder/mutilation without a wheat thresher?)

All I know for sure is this: Germans are fucked up, man. :-)


  • At March 27, 2007 11:05 AM, Blogger Rob S. said…

    That's AWESOME.

    I don't know what Max and Moritz look like, but I'm imagining cookies shaped like the Katzenjammer Kids.

  • At March 27, 2007 11:26 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Heh. I thought of the Katzenjammer Kids too. She sounds like my kind of teacher.

    Seriously, those old Grimm fairy tales, in their original forms, were NOT for the timid.

    And German is fun. It just sounds so...bad, with all those umlauts and gutterals. You can call someone your one true love in German and its sounds like an insult,whereas you can call them the world's biggest jerk in French and it sounds lovely.

  • At March 27, 2007 12:46 PM, Blogger Zaratustra said…

  • At March 27, 2007 1:32 PM, Blogger tavella said…

    That's brilliant. Evil, but brilliant!

  • At March 27, 2007 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sallyp you can do worse in french and it'll sound even better "Like wiping your ass w/silk";)

    Kalinara my condolances but it does indeed put things in a new light.

  • At March 27, 2007 4:08 PM, Blogger Rich said…

    Holy crap that's screwed up.

    Zaratustra - thanks for the link. I may not sleep tonight...

  • At March 27, 2007 4:16 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Yep! That's it! You're good!

    ...okay, that's even MORE traumatizing than I remembered. Good to know.


  • At March 27, 2007 4:19 PM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I have a story kind of like that.

    In my 11th grade German class we read this story about a guy coming to town, and asking a cabbie to take him to a hotel in the red-light district, because he wants to save cash. The cabbie drives him allover town, eventually depositing him in the park. There were pictures to go along with it, so we couldn't quite understand why the last one showed the cabbie handing money to the guy. The class ended up deciding that the cabbie had played a joke on the kid to teach him a lesson about not being too stingy, by making him believe he'd have to sleep in the park.

    Flash forward to my junior year of college, German Literature, same story. Right off the bat, the professor points out that the artist missed a pronoun that tells us the main character is a girl. Suddenly it makes sense. When she said that she wanted a hotel in the red-light, the cabbie assumed she was a lady of the evening, and figured a park bench would be good enough.

    The way things all fell into place was hilarious, even if the story was a little more troubling in its new light.

  • At March 27, 2007 9:52 PM, Blogger Jason said…

    Damn, three years of German in High School, three more years in college...I know we read some fucked up stories, but I can't remember them. I KNOW we read those Max and Moritz stories.

  • At March 28, 2007 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kids tales, particularly old folklore ends pretty nastily in a number of tales. (Disney cleaned up the stories quite a bit, which had already been cleaned up by the Christians who recorded the old pagan stories.)

    I wrote a little bit up on my blog in my review of "Pan's Labyrinth":


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