One of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, the Black Forest region is known for its wood-carving, Black Forest Cake, gourmet cuisine, anOne of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, the Black Forest region is known for its wood-carving, Black Forest Cake, gourmet cuisine, and beautiful scenery, but the dense and sinister forests have also served as inspiration for myths and storytellers (the most famous ones are of course the brothers Grimm). Émile Erckmann's and Alexandre Chatrian's werewolf story draws from that tradition, but also reminds us of the classical historian Tacitus, who wrote that Germans dress in the skins of wild beasts.
Every year, on the same day, count Nideck suffers from fits, and his chief huntsman invites the narrator to the castle to try and cure the count of his malady. A mysterious old woman called the Black Plague is seen on the castle grounds every year, and is therefore suspected to be a witch and responsible for the count's howling and yelling.
Hugues-le-loup is rich with descriptions of the Vosges mountain range, and you can feel the mysterious air of the castle and the crisp silence of a wintry forest. Traditional horror this is not, instead it leans more towards the Gothic genre with its wolf howling, dark rooms, family curse, decaying aristocracy, fainting lady, and brooding master of the house.
I do take issue with the bland narrator, who constantly disrupts the action with his long and boring ponderings. At one point he contemplates the nature of Knapwurst, "this dwarf, - - an ill-shaped caricature", and during a chase he's thinking about animals and whether "the wolf, the fox, and the ferret seek the darkness that conforms to their ugly deeds". Shouldn't you, uh, maybe stay sharp in case the witch is trying to kill you?
The story would be perfect for cold and quiet winter evenings, but the fact that it could have been told within half the space somewhat detracts from the enjoyment. Plot-wise not the most balanced short story either, but the atmosphere and the involvement in the Black Forest tradition might prove interesting to others as well.
This is also pretty much a definite must-read for those who are intrigued by the older mythical werewolf stories, and how the "condition" is portrayed in them. In that sense Hugues-le-loup is (like Hugues the Wer-Wolf) without a doubt interesting, because it treats lycanthropy as a thing of the mind (at least if I interpreted the transformation scene correctly), and one particular scene is effective in all its creepiness.
(Will probably check the other stories in the collection later on, but for now I was only after the title story.)...more
So she was burnt, with all her clothes, And arms, and hands, and eyes, and nose; Till she had nothing more to lose Except her little scarlet shoes; And noSo she was burnt, with all her clothes, And arms, and hands, and eyes, and nose; Till she had nothing more to lose Except her little scarlet shoes; And nothing else but these was found Among her ashes on the ground.
That's something you don't see very often these days in a children's book. Struwwelpeter has a bit of a reputation of being macabre, but there are actually only three stories where misbehaving children end up dead or mutilated. Doesn't sound very fun, you say? Well, the rhymes make the stories appear more light-hearted, and compared with some of the modern children's books that underestimate children horrifically, I'd rather recommend Hoffmann's wacky story anyday. No matter how hard you scream and misbehave, you're not entitled to break the rules or do what you want. Actions have consequences (the gravity of them you'll never know beforehand), and there's no better way of showing it than through a bit of unpleasantness in a children's book that's read in a safe environment.
The illustrations are part of the fun. I don't usually go for this kind of style, but the bright colours are beautiful and occasional hilarity comes from the expressions of the people and the animals. Crying cats, racist kids dipped in ink, a tailor dashing to cut some thumbs off, and - my favourite - a rabbit turning against a hunter.
This might also get me to brush up my German. I read the story aloud both in English and in German, and the original definitely sounded better. It has a nice rhythm and clang to it, but it also sounds more fun and playful....more
Not the best writing or dialogue, but the pulpiness and the engrossing story are enough to keep one interested. I might be a bit partial though, becauNot the best writing or dialogue, but the pulpiness and the engrossing story are enough to keep one interested. I might be a bit partial though, because I like The Thing (1982) (watched The Thing from Another World (1951) yesterday, but wasn't that impressed). Nevertheless, an isolated research station in Antarctica as the setting creates a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere, when the alien starts to wreak havoc and paranoia ensues....more
Mouth-wateringly beautiful (as are the illustrations by Arthur Rackham), the verses aren't drowned in overly obscure metaphors, but they form a crispMouth-wateringly beautiful (as are the illustrations by Arthur Rackham), the verses aren't drowned in overly obscure metaphors, but they form a crisp narrative allegory about temptation and whatnot. Magical and subtle enough that it's suitable for children, but no adult can ignore the sensuality (juice sucking and so on). Laura is taken advantage of, and the hideous goblins are not interested in already spoiled maidens (and when their advances are rebuffed, they become furious and abusive), but luckily there is a chance to get redeemed. Or not, depends how you interpret the whole thing, since there seems to be as much different themes as there are readers. Sex, drug addiction, social redemption, incest, sisterhood etc.
"Pricking up her golden head: 'We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots?'"
Yeah, you never know where those goblins have dipped their fruits in....more
It's curious how Gudmund seems to be uncomfortable around the determined and self-assured Hildur, but he's smitten with Helga, who even retracts his aIt's curious how Gudmund seems to be uncomfortable around the determined and self-assured Hildur, but he's smitten with Helga, who even retracts his accusation towards his old boss (who impregnated her) because she's afraid of his soul (he's about to lie in court). Noble maybe, but also slightly implausible and makes Helga seem like an angel descended from the heavens.
The story itself is a sweet romance (not saccharine, thank god), but also a sort of morality tale. I read an old and battered copy from 1920, which may have affected in my opinion on the prose a little, because I'm fond of old Finnish. I still didn't like this that much, though. I'm mostly looking forward to reading Lagerlöf's other works (mainly The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Gösta Berling's Saga). I just happened to stumble upon this at my parents' house, and I need to give this back to my mum. Too bad, since the paper cover seems to have been painted by hand, and it's incredibly beautiful....more
On the outside, the Radleys are a normal middle-class family. Parents Peter and Helen struggle with their marriage that has started to taste like cardOn the outside, the Radleys are a normal middle-class family. Parents Peter and Helen struggle with their marriage that has started to taste like cardboard, and their children Rowan and Clara struggle with teenage problems in a small town community. The kind of small town I personally have experience from: growing older, you start to escape from it in different ways, until you realize buses and internet connections are in danger of diluting your life into a half existence. You can never come and go as you please, because the bus connections are scarce, but you can't spend the rest of your life lying in bed reading books either, and certainly not spending time in town events (if there are any, usually there aren't) with small-minded and gossipy people.
"Drinking wine is just another thing designed to make them feel like normal human beings, when really it only proves the opposite. Helen insists they drink it for the taste, but he’s not even sure he likes the taste."
Behind the ordinary facade, however, Peter and Helen are harbouring a secret. They are vampires, but the children don't know yet. Until a tragedy occurs. The bland existence of the Radleys can never be the same again. Blood is passion, truth, temptation, excitement, and everything what the Radleys are trying to suffocate in themselves. When the urges begin to surface, Peter remembers the old days with Helen and his brother Will. The wild blood red days of night club lights and recklessness. As a contrast, the scene where Peter and Helen dine with their neighbours appears as hilarious. Mark rambles on and on about his job, Lorna's playing footsie with Peter, and Helen is completely off planet Earth. None of them truly happy.
The demented Will is of course a bad influence, but he does manage to break the bubble the Radleys have built for themselves. The masks of quiet respectability have only managed to hide the ripples, and Haig's subtle approach to violence only emphasizes the problems that the characters are facing. I wasn't particularly interested in what was happening with the kids, nor was I that enthusiastic about the love thingy, but the way blood and vampirism were mixed with family life was intriguing and satisfying. For me, the excitement was whether the Radleys would find the balance between living in hiding and being true to themselves. After all, loosening up a bit never hurt anyone, but suppression only makes way for an explosion.
Very different than the gritty vampires I usually prefer, but I'm glad I gave this a chance. Despite being a fairly light read (at least for me), Haig packs a lot of hefty stuff between the lines and never underestimates his readers. If you want to know why I hate self-help books, read The Radleys.
"Confine your imagination. Do not lose yourself to dangerous daydreams. Do not sit and ponder and dwell on a life you are not living. Do something active. Exercise. Work harder. Answer your emails. Fill your diary with harmless social activities. By doing, we stop ourselves imagining. And imagining for us is a fast-moving car heading towards a cliff.
The Abstainer’s Handbook (second edition), p.83"...more