It was one of those Sunday mornings I love: The kids let you sleep in (relatively) long, the weather is Irish, and prevents your bad conscience from creeping in when you decide not to leave the house all day.
I trot to the breakfast table and put the espresso macchinetta onto the stove, waiting for the promising scent to fill the flat, inviting the rest of the clan to leave their caves. Table is laid, time is not an issue, I just love it.
This particular Sunday was a special one, also in another way. For my daughters, as they were able to take advantage of their parents’ laid-back, rainy Sunday mood, and watch a little TV in the kitchen. And special for me, as I more than happily interrupted the breakfast cleaning-up routine to watch a brilliant piece of self-reflexive, story-in-story narration with them, made for kids, but very fulfilling for me as well. It was an episode of one of Germany’s most renowned, most famous, and best children’s programs called “Löwenzahn” (English: Dandelion).
Se Dschörmens amongst my readers will know this program that started way back in 1981 very well, along with its quirky former hero Peter Lustig (English: Peter Funny) who lives in an old, cozy construction trailer in the fictitious city “Bärstadt” (English: Bear City) – and has numerous entertaining and educative adventures to master.
The series still exists, since 2006 with a new hero called Fritz Fuchs (English: Fred Fox), and every one of the so-far more than 300 episodes is worth a kid’s and a grown-up’s while, probably worth a blog post for every single one. But episode 298, which I am referring to here, is called “Geheimnissvolle Botschaften” (English: Mysterious Messages). What could also serve as a nice title for many a corporation’s annual report, is in this case true storytelling at its best, storytelling about storytelling, storytelling about telling stories, storytelling about scripts, writing and the art of language, and the value of narrative traditions. Yep, education on a Sunday morning!
It’s about kiosk owner Yasemin Saidi and her quest to unveil the mystery of an ancient-looking parcel she receives. A parcel from a far-away country, with an already faded, oriental handwriting, from no one less than her Persian grandfather who has recently passed away. The parcel contains a riddle for her to solve: Should she be able to decipher three characters from three different writing ages, there will be a treasure waiting for her, writes her granddad. She begins her treasure hunt aided by a pawky boy from next door. A hunt that leads them back to the history of storytelling, oral lore, campfire fairy tales cave paintings to the beginning of writing and further on and on through time and historical imagination.
At one point, she tries to memorize a story she loved her grandfather tell her when they were still together in Persia, but she simply can’t remember the end – much to the boy’s dismay, who is hanging to her every word. In expectation, hoping for a surprise ending, for the heroine’s fate to change for the better, but: Yasemin simply can’t remember. Until, in the end, when the two of them manage to solve the riddle and decipher the characters, they find her grandfather’s treasure … and she does remember, or better, is helped to remember: The hidden treasure is all stories her grandfather ever told her, put to paper by himself and collected in an old suitcase, preserved for her to tell and carry on – and never to forget.
Our Sunday morning (or was it still morning?) had come to an end, the kids were happy and entertained, their father entertained and happy. Happy that the art of storytelling, the power of language, and the value of writing are still a valued piece of children’s entertainment in the age of Subway Surfer, Lep’s World and Little Big Planet.