Wednesday 9 May 2012: Rainy day Blip Challenge - Lost in Translation
Mrs Pepperpot never listens to weather reports.
"If the sun shines I'm glad; if it rains I stay indoors," she says.
The challenge: It's a rainy, gloomy day. The trip to Richmond for a meeting has provided zero blip opportunities and riding has been cancelled. What to blip? OK, walk over to the bookshelves, close my eyes, pull out a book at random and make it the subject of a blip.
Oh! It's Mrs Pepperpot, not what I was expecting at all! Well, here goes.... Mrs Pepperpot was a favourite of mine when I was a child and both my daughters loved listening to stories about her, too. When we were deciding what to ship from Bahrain to New Zealand last year, Christina asked me to choose some of her favourite children's books from her room and Immy selected some of hers. Thus, Mrs Pepperpot is here. I suppose I could start a whole blip series of 'Much-loved children's books'.
For those unfamiliar with the stories, Mrs Pepperpot is an old woman who lives with her husband, Mr Pepperpot, and their dog and cat in the countryside. Sometimes, without warning, she shrinks to the size of a pepperpot during which times she has (as you might expect) wonderful adventures, helped by the fact that she can understand and talk to animals.
The first thing I have discovered about Mrs Pepperpot is that her name has been lost in translation. In Alf Prøysen's original Norwegian, her name is actually "Teskjekjerringa"; the teaspoon lady. Now that I've discovered that she was actually supposed to be the size of a teaspoon, some of her activities make more sense to me. For example, when she shrinks, she rides around on her cat. I used to think that something the size of a pepperpot would have great difficulty with this because to me, a pepperpot (not a pepper grinder!) is really very small - it's generally a lot shorter than a teaspoon.
Another thing that I have discovered is that the author, Alf Prøysen, is a national icon in Norway. He's up there with Roald Amundsen, Henrik Ibsen and Thor Heyerdahl. His picture is on the tailplanes of Norwegian Air Shuttle planes. He is immortalised in a bronze statue which has him carrying a guitar, and his modest childhood home is now a museum. He's a Big Cheese in Norwegian popular culture.
Mrs Pepperpot Teaspoon Lady was first published in 1956 and was an immediate success, being translated into several languages. Apparently it was made into a Japanese anime TV series in the 80s, with the title 'Spoon Obasan' and that in turn was released in a number of languages including English. I can't help feeling that our heroine must have undergone some serious personality changes from the little old rural Norwegian woman that Prøysen first envisaged by the time she'd been through those various metamorphoses!
Quite apart from creating The Teaspoon Lady, Proysen was one of the most important Norwegian cultural personalities of the twentieth century, making significant contributions to literature, music, TV and radio. He was born at Rudshøgda in Ringsaker in 1914 into the husmann, or landless lower class, of rural Norway which is reflected in his songs and short stories. Though somewhat of an underdog and an outsider, he made significant contributions to many artistic fields: children's radio, short stories, theater and music. His only novel, Trost i taklampa, was a great success both as a book and as a play, depicting the effect that 1950s urbanization had on rural Norwegian life. Sadly, Prøysen died of cancer aged just 56 in 1970.
Whew! With the aid of an atlas, a Google Images-sourced photo, a pepperpot bought by my husband at a charity auction in Bahrain and a teaspoon from a market in Provence, I have met the absurd Rainy Day Blip Challenge and learnt something in the process, too!