Monday, December 5, 2011

Alphabeasts: H is for Heffalump

It's the end of the term, and I should really be grading papers instead of drawing. I was joking last night about taking a close-up picture of some melted cheese on top of a pizza and passing it off as a Horta, but in fact I'm saving my Star Trek Alphabeast for a monster even dearer to my stupid heart in its way.

Instead, this week's Alphabeasts entry comes from one of my favorite books in all of Modernist fiction, and certainly my favorite such book to read aloud. That's not Ulysses, believe it or not, but Pooh. This week, H is for Heffalump.

That's a bit of a quickie drawing (with quickie coloring), and I'm not too happy with it, but I tried to make the heffalump a little different from merely a more familiar pachyderm up on its hind legs.

I am dimly aware that Disney has once again defiled the Pooh stories by creating some sort of cutesy, plush, kawaii abomination in a so-called Heffalump Movie—you may click here to see images, but beware that they are horrible and cannot be unseen. In fact, if you are a parent, I think it is crucial that you do not allow your children to see those images until they are well familiar with Ernest Shepard's original decorations.

There are two actual images of the Heffalump, in nightmare visions by Piglet and by Pooh. It is a creature of the nervous imagination, possibly even Very Fierce with Bears and Pigs. Only Christopher Robin has (possibly) ever actually seen one. The images I'm linking to are, really, conjecture at best.

And yet there is a chapter in Winnie-the-Pooh in which "Piglet Meets a Heffalump."

If you have never read this story, or indeed if you have never read it aloud, I exhort you to find a copy and read it before you hit my spoiler image below. This isn't the only time I've recommended the books, but let me say that Milne's Pooh books are great to read aloud, because they have a lot of little quirks and jokes that only appear as the reader makes the words on the page into sounds. If you haven't read the originals, and think of Pooh only as that Disneyfied pabulum, then you owe it to yourself (and anyone you read to) to put the real books in your hands. They're wonderful.

Okay, are you ready for the spoiler? In the chapter in which Pooh and Piglet resolve to trap a heffalump (despite Piglet's anxiety), Pooh himself winds up in the bottom of their Very Deep Pit, with his head stuck in an empty honey-jar. The very moment when he makes a "loud, roaring noise of Sadness and Despair" is the moment when Piglet peeks into the Pit to find out what they've caught.

This is the Heffalump that Piglet meets.

Next week: an irreverent creature from an alphabestiary I loved when I was a tot.


Ben Towle said...

I remember hearing the Heffalump story over and over again from a Pooh record I had as a child. I recently finished reading House on Pooh Corner with my daughter and am on the lookout for a copy of this first book.

Isaac said...

I have a really hard time reading the last chapter of House at Pooh Corner out loud, because I am a big softie.

But you gotta, gotta, gotta get your little girl the first Pooh book. There's a Penguin paperback edition that's cheap...

Kort said...

Nice! I was trying to get my daughter to do the Heffalump since she loves elephants, but no luck yet.

Loops O'Fury said...

Yes! I should get Pooh from the library, now that we've finished all the Moomin books.