Norman Hunter’s Incrediblania and Professor Branestawm stories

hunter11.jpgAs I reported recently, these books recently reappeared in my house, to the delight of at least one resident. (myself.)
 These stories are not for the literal-minded. They are kooky beyond all get-out and all the better for it.

hunter2.jpg

“The Home-Made Dragon” a book of Incrediblania stories is perfectly illustrated by Fritz Wegner

The Incrediblania stories are re-takes on your typical king/queen/court officials/dragon tales, which take a particular delight in skewering the human condition, everyday banalities and, perhaps most of all, the trappings of governance. Likewise with the Professor books, except there we have robots, minor dignitaries and wacky inventions instead of kings and queens.

Here’s an excerpt from the story: “The Imperial Tea Set.”

Context: The King and Queen have been given a magnificent new, handmade tea set bearing their likenesses.

“It was a lovely picture and exactly like him [the king], but, oh dear, alas, alack-a-day, that such things should come to pass! — it showed him with his beautiful, long, curly moustache that he had shaved off yesterday to please the Queen.

‘Goodness!’ cried the Queen, realizing in a flash what an awfully complicated imperial sort of national muddle she had made of everything by persuading the king to shave his moustache off.”

Here’s just a little example of Hunter’s subtle hyperbole at work:

When Professor Branestawm runs afoul of a traffic warden, the warden makes a note in a “fierce notebook.” What a difference from making a fierce note in a notebook. In Hunter’s world the notebook itself is fierce.

Thes stories quite remind me of Lem’s Cyberiad, Fables for the Cybernetic Age, which is of course one of my all-time top books. In Lem’s case, the king and queens and robots and inventions are all mushed together

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3 Responses

  1. [...] Wegner – 40 years later… I recently did a post about the book “The Home-Made Dragon” and noted the absolutely perfect illustrations by [...]

  2. Hello! Came across your wordpress whilst Googling “Incrediblania”.

    Fond memories! I remember these on the kids’ storytelling programme, Jackanory, in the 1980s! Can’t remember who read them though: all I remember was that it was vigorous and the illustrations were hilarious!!

    I had to Google though before I could remember the author’s surname. I knew it was Norman something! Hunter. He was one of the last of these fine British authors born at the end of the c19th or thereabouts, wasn’t he? So he was quite old when I was a kid. But I remember him having quite modern ideas: I remember him being fascinated by feminist neologisms such as “herstory”! He was fascinated by language, I think because he was in advertising at one time. I remember him being interviewed for my Puffin Club magazine!

    So you think Norman Hunter is reminiscent of Stanislaw Lem? Interesting idea..

    Anyway, thanks for the memories! I was just wondering why I happen to have such an absurdist sense of humour; and I think I am coming..

  3. ..to realise it was partly because of Norman Hunter; plus sundry other less well-remembered but often funny authors read out on Jackanory (a UK kids’programme, long-running but now I think defunct except for specials.)

    It was some of the authors on that, especially,&also the classic absurdist poets such as Edward Lear that must be to blame for my sense of humour, I have decided!

    The kids’ entertainment business in my day, certainly in UK, really believed in amusing kids:&sneaking a bit of improvement in by way of an alternative! I wonder if it still does: I think UK kids’ lit is still probably quite funny.

    Perhaps quite unlike today’s Hollywood! (&I have long wondered why so many N Ams of my own generation (G. ), and possibly some younger ones, are so impossibly serious and “emo” about things! Going for things like those interminably “serious” modern Batman movies, 4instance!

    Some might say “global warming” but my gen had to live with MAD!

    Do you think they have a shortage of N Hunter in their lives? :)

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