Friday, 6 February 2009

Elmer Fudd & Bugs Bunny's ancestors

If you ever get the chance to read a copy of STRUWWELPETER by Heinrich Hoffmann you will be richly rewarded. Not only are the cautionary tales, originally written and illustrated in 1844 by Hoffmann for his 3 yr old son, amusing in themselves, but it becomes quickly apparent how much they have influenced popular culture ever since.

Where would Tim Burton be if it wasn't for Shock Headed Peter with his wild hair and long twig-like finger nails and Conrad, the boy who wouldn't stop sucking his thumbs and had them chopped off by "the great, long, red legged scissor-man"? (What Hoffmann's 3yr old son thought of that, history does not recall.)

But most interesting for me is the story of the wabbit... sorry, rabbit... who turns the tables on the hunter, a theme harking back to the Middle Ages and forward directly to the emergence of the Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny partnership in the late 1930's and early 1940's.

Struwwelpeter would have been a well known children's book by the Warner animators as it was translated into many languages, and not forgetting the large number of German immigrants who's children may have carried their favourite book across the Atlantic with them.

Like the Animal Frolic Toba Scrolls from 11th century Japan and the illustrations of Heinrich Kley (who I'll post about soon), humorous drawings of anthropomorphic animals say so much more about the human condition, satirising mankind's desires, weaknesses, irritations, injustices and foibles than a 12 page essay or pious sermon could ever do.

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