Wednesday, May 19, 2010

story time : the quangle wangle's hat, edward lear

On top of the Crumpetty Tree
The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side,
And bells, and buttons, and loops and lace.
So that nobody ever could see the face
Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.

The Quangle Wangle's Hat
is a story of total nonsense, which at the same time seems to make a lot of sense, with its many layers of meaning and illusion. This whimsical poem was written by Edwar Lear, a Victorian author, poet and artist. It was first published in 1877 in his book Laughable Lyrics: Fourth Book of Nonsense Poems, Songs, Botany, Music &c.

I love Lear's imagination. His fantasy creatures such as the Fimble Fowl with the corkscrew leg, the Pobble who hast no toes, and my favourite the Dong with a luminous nose.

Lear was born into a family of 20 children, in Holloway England 1812. Financial difficulties left him to his elder sisters care. Raised and educated by his sisters, he then began earning his living as an artist at age 14. He had a difficult life suffering from epilepsy and depression for which he felt ashamed and would often retreat from public view. He was a well travelled man, having explored Europe, Egypt and India. He briefly gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. During this Victorian era it was Lear, together with Lewis Carroll, who helped establish this new literary genre of the humorous, irrational and nonsensical. Lear died in 1888 from the heart disease he had been struggling with since 1870.

This tattered edition of The Quangle Wangle's Hat was Will's from his childhood. Published in 1975 by Puffin Books, this version is illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Oxenbury also illustrated Mem Fox's children's book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, another one of my favourite children's stories.

And at night by the light of the Mulberry Moon
They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon
On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
With the Quangle Wangle Quee.

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