Tag Archives: #Heaven

Andersen, H.C.; Collected stories (1822-1870)

Once upon a time there lived a man in Denmark called Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). He was born into poverty and its overwhelming harshness. Yet talent and luck brought him out of it.

Many have heard a version of “The little mermaid”. Andersen’s version is one that brought me to tears when I was young. It felt unfair to me, that she gave up so much and gained so little. Now that I am re-reading all of his stories, I’m not certain that was Andersen’s intent. “The little mermaid” is definitely about how unfair life is, how infatuation makes us do things with long-term consequences, but also about hope. Andersen was, according to those who write about his life, a deeply religious man. The idea that he hoped for something wonderful after death shines through his stories. His fears of the horrors that await evil people also comes through some of his stories. To avoid Hell, Andersen made his people go through terrible penances. “The red shoes” and “The girl who trod on the loaf” are two examples his penance type stories. These three stories, and many others, clearly show the position women held in Danish society.

Andersen writes about people who are idiots. “What the old man does is always right” is about a man who is dumber than bread. Yet he still gets out ahead. Irony and humour is strong in that story. Humour was one of Andersen’s tools. “The emperor’s new clothes” is a funny story that nails group effects and foolish traditions right on the head.

Fables were part of his repertoire. Andersen replaced people with animals, plants and inanimate objects. With them he gave us stories such as “The ugly duckling”, “The neighbouring families” and “The darning needle”. Magical creatures such as trolls,  dryads and elves turned up in his tales.

More than anything else, Andersen’s stories are about structural discrimination and abuse. He stood up for people who needed representation. As now, these differences were reproduced and supported by people who could be heard. People like Andersen are always needed. Most societies and cultures discriminate and abuse those unlike themselves. I say most, but I have never heard of any culture where fairness and equal opportunities were practised by either the majority or minority populations. Like society, most of Andersen’s stories have dark undertones and can reveal uncomfortable truths about ourselves if we are willing to look beneath the surface fittings of the stories.

Andersen’s 168 stories have been illustrated by artists such as Lorenz Frölich, Carl Larsson, Vilhelm Pedersen, Stefan Viggo Pedersen and Isidor Törnblom. Many of them have been translated into other languages. H.C. Andersen’s stories are available at Gilead, at H.C. Andersen Centret and in various other languages at Project Gutenberg.

 

Goody, Heide & Grant, Iain; Clovenhoof I (2012)

Heide Goody & Iain Grant‘s collaboration began with Clovenhoof. They enjoyed it enough to continue collaborating on at least eleven more stories. I adored Clovenhoof. If you enjoy British humour, this is a must. Life right now needed Clovenhoof. When my Asperger struggles to deal with what life hands me, laughs are precious. Clovenhoof was fall over funny and relevant. Probably relevant for any person who has had siblings, parent issues or have struggled to fit into their local cultures and bureaucracies.

“We’re a little disappointed,” said Saint Peter. “Let’s take the measure of suffering. This was very straightforward. All suffering should be graded as good or higher.”

“And we’re certainly getting those grades in a lot of the suffering that we deliver,” said Satan.

“A lot. Not all.”

“Yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it for everything,” Satan argued. “We got some clients who simply enjoy it too much, and then there are those who lie about the experience because they can’t help themselves.”

… “You give me no choice but to recommend your immediate removal from the post.”

Poor Satan. The guy can never catch a break. First he gets thrown out of Heaven, and made master of Hell for wanting to save God’s children. Then he gets thrown out of Hell for trying to meet the demands of the assessment board. Fired by uptight Michael and conniving St. Peter (helped by, hmmm, not telling). Where does he end up? Earth. England. Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield.

“Having restocked the shelves of the Thriller section with a newly arrived box of Deightons and Le Carrés and settled down for a mid-morning cup of tea, Ben heard a muffled roll of thunder, looked up and saw that a naked man had appeared on the pavement outside the shop.”

Ben Kitchen is one of our main characters, the owner of the aforesaid used book-store (Books ‘n’ Bobs). He lives in the same building as Mr. Jeremy Clovenhoof (Michael’s sense of humour), and is painfully shy towards women he might be interested in. The two coincidentally end up on the same floor of an apartment building in Boldmere. They live in flats 2a and 2b.

We also get to know Nerys from the third floor of the same building. She works at Helping Hand Job Agency. One of her clients turns out to be Jeremy. And what a client he is. Both she and Ben try to figure out where Jeremy is from and why he is such an odd person.

The story moves between the new and unusual experiences Satan has on Earth and the reason Satan got kicked out of Hell (it might not be what you think it is).

Satan has no concept of money, credit cards, bills, rent, making food, what to wear, social rules, how to find a job or any of the other hellish things we are expected to magically understand upon reaching adulthood. Add in the fact that Satan is an Alien, and as one might expect of The Devil in such a situation, he makes a mess of things – both in his life and in others.

However, Satan is an OK guy. He knows he did his best in Hell and wants to get a second opinion from God. Michael and he have not been on good terms since the War in Heaven, so Clovenhoof is not about to trust any decision made by him and St. Peter. Getting that second opinion is not a simple matter when the opposition refuses to cooperate.

Because he is an Alien, Satan sees the world without the prejudices we grow up with. He also does not have the same moral compass humans like to imagine they have. In many ways Satan makes me think of the experiences many Aspergers have in trying to connect with their surroundings. So many rules and regulations make no sense and “morals and empathy” are just words people use to persecute others.

I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:

  • Scrumpy Thunder
  • Lambrini
  • Crispy Pancakes

Reviews


Clovenhoof is available on Amazon