Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Parsley" by Ludwig Bemelmans

Most people are familiar with Ludwig Bemelmans because of his Madeline series of books. My sister Laurie and I were more smitten by his book Parsley (not that we didn't love Madeline too).

Parsley is the story of an old twisted tree and stag who both lived together in a forest. The two had grown old together having survived many lumbermen and hunters who had entered their forest.

But one day a hunter spied the old stag and was just about to shoot it when the tree pushed the hunter down the mountain with the result that the hunter would "hunt no more." But before the hunter fell over the cliff, the tree grabbed his binoculars (supposedly the hunter was based on Ernest Hemingway).

Parsley was a very old stag. The reason he didn't see the hunter was because his eyesight was not as good as it used to be. But now that he had those binoculars always available, all Parsley had to do was look through them to see if any hunters entered the forest to cause him or his family harm. And you know the rest, everybody lived safely and happily ever after.

Besides being drawn to a story of nature triumphing over people's evil (Laurie and I will still side with the animal's point of view on things every time), we were both in love with all the detail in this book. I haven't seen the actual book since I was a little girl but I remember that each page with the text on it would have a border of some specific flower, usually with some bugs and things crawling in there somewhere too. Laurie and I loved that sort of detail. Here's what's going on behind the stag in the above illustration. To a little kid, it was a lot of fun to search for all this hidden stuff.

I found a republished softcover version of the book in the 80s and bought it for my sister. We were astonished at our memories because the illustrations were incredibly moire-ed and the detail? I think the illustrations used in this particular book must have been reproduced from an old "Woman's Day" magazine (or something similar) because there was no detail. I didn't think my perception of art was that off when I was little but I didn't think to question it because of my experiences with the Kirchner painting. 

I recently found a Bemelmans Parsley painting on a gallery site and am happy to discover that his painting is just as beautiful to me now as what I remember from when I was a little girl. I am relieved to know that the reprint I picked up was not what the original looked like.

My sister and I both grew up to become illustrators and to live with lots and lots of animals. Happily and safely ever after. And with much detail. The end. :-)


Country Girl said...

I have never heard of this book, Maria! And I'm so surprised. Of course, I've heard of Madeline and have read a few in that series.

But this book is beautiful! I love how you captured the photos on your post.

We ALL Love Our Pretty Little Town! said...

You'll get plenty of this, I'm sure!

Amazon, search parsley and writer's name

You'll see a 1953, 1555 and 1979 version. I'm sure the earlier are what you want.

And about children's memories...I recently tracked down an old, old Golden book I used to love about the grandfather rabbit who painted the easter eggs, and then the sunset...and I'm telling you, I remembered it SOOOOOOO much better and prettier than the pictures in the book I got.

I should check versions on that too!

thanks, great little remembrance.

shara said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I have a kinda-grandson (my manfriend's grandson) that loves books. He is too young for this one, yet, but I will be looking for it.

Maria said...

Kate- I know. When I learned later that Bemelmans was the same illustrator as the one who created Madeline, I was surprised too. "Parsley" has been pretty much out of print since the 50s and is about 100 bucks on the resale market. I was so happy to find some of the illustrations in a book written by Bemelmans' grandson ("Bemelmans-The Life & Art of Madeline's Creator").

I've never been to New York (!!!!!) but when I do, first stop is Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel. Bemelmans painted the murals in the bar of what Central Park would be like if people were in cages and animals strolled through Central Park with their families.

27 Again-Hey, welcome to my blog. :-) Thanks for the heads up but this out of print book is expensive! And even more frustrating, nobody seems to have anything in image form on the internet. I hope that one day the book gets republished because it would be a sad thing to have this book completely disappear one day.

I've been looking at books from my childhood that had a big influence on me and surprisingly, they hold up some 40+ years later. What I liked and responded to back then are the same things I like and respond to now.

Maria said...

Hey Shara-Our posts just missed each other by a minute. :-)

I'd check out your library and see if they might still have it. It's definitely a hard book to find and although that book was very important in my development as an artist, the expense makes me think long and hard. I only need to see it once to take me back to what I saw when I was little. I don't need to live with it permanently. Just need a little refresh to the old memory, you know?

Mental P Mama said...

Beautiful. My brother and I loved a Golden Book called Beaver Valley....I am going to find one for his birthday present!

Maria said...

27 Again and Mental-You both have mentioned Golden Books as a precious memory from your past. I need to photograph a Golden Book that was a very important book to me too. Hopefully some time tomorrow....