...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pelle the Tail-less

I have been reading some very educational books these days: children’s books… in Swedish. (BTW it has nothing to do with the Muppet Show and by no means involve someone called the Swedish Chef! :-) )

I’m happy to say that I think I understand more and more words (no guarantees that my thoughts are grounded on reality though, haha!). At any case, I understand much better when the books have lots of pictures (so I can guess the words I don’t know). Marcus thinks I will understand more if the books are about cats, which is the case for a popular series of books called Pelle Svanslös (Pelle the Tail-less) by Gösta Knutsson. Here is his picture of Pelle, with a description of him from the first pages of the picture book series (Note: the Pelle series is also available in longer books with fewer pictures for older children):

“You have surely heard of Pelle the Tail-less. He is called so because he has no tail. It was bitten by a rat when he was small and lived in the countryside. When Pelle came to the city, he became teased by the other cats. “Ha ha, Pelle has no tail”, they said and danced on a ring around him. The meanest cat was called Måns, and he tries to make it hard for Pelle by tricking him in all possible ways. Pelle is a very nice cat, but he can also be very tricky. That is how Måns often finds himself in trouble.”

I know, I know… it’s such a sob story. Also, I found out that as a small kitten, Pelle was almost drowned by the farm owner, who thought there were too many cats in his yard. Fortunately, a farm worker took pity on Pelle and smuggled him into a vegetable customer's car, and that was how Pelle found himself in the city with a new family. One of our friends even said that as a kid, she stopped reading the series after one book, since she pitied Pelle so much!

Måns (“Mons”) is really evil. In one episode, he publicly humiliates Pelle during a play, by hiring other cats to dance around him onstage singing “have you seen a cat without a tail?”, while Pelle’s date was watching in the audience. In the book I’m reading now, Måns tries a row of cheap pranks on Pelle, including: popping air-filled paper bags with Pelle in the vicinity, salting his ice cream, trying to scare him with ghost stories, and even (this is the most complicated trick I’ve read so far), sabotaging the merry-go-round Pelle was riding on.

Here is Måns (the black cat) plotting one of his evil plans with his sidekicks Bill and Bull, two dumb cats who keep on repeating what each other says:

Of course though, Pelle always makes it through (of course!). He is also so nice that he doesn’t even suspect that Måns is plotting against him all the time… What an underdog! Pelle’s other cats friends (including Fritz and Frida, Gullan and the nicely named Rickard from Rickomberga) also defend and affirm him when Måns tries to embarrass Pelle in public.

In defense of Måns though, you can’t fully blame him for being evil towards Pelle. You see, Pelle has a family in the city who loves him and feeds him cream; he has a ribbon around his neck and he sleeps on a mattress with an embroidered herring design on it. Måns, on the other hand, is a stray who lives in a small corner shed, who would probably like to be adopted by a family, eat cream and sleep on a herring-printed mattress too. (Hmm for a children’s series, it’s pretty multi-dimensional!) Sniff! What a sad cat life for Måns! And poor spoiled Pelle, who has to live with being teased. If they were real cats, I would adopt them both and make them friends to each other.

I suddenly remembered our own underdog cat (undercat?), Al who was blind, limp, and had small broken teeth, but was so sweet and sucked up to the humans… I wonder who the neighborhood Måns was. Awww, I miss Al!


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