Toys and Books from a Czech Fairy Tale: Dlouhý, Siroký a Bystrozraký (High, Wide, and Cleareyed)

Dlouhý, Široký a Bystrozraký is a popular Czech folk tale by Karel Jaromír Erben (1811-1870), a celebrated historian, poet, and writer.  The title is variously translated as: Tall, Broad, and Keen, or Mr. Long, Mr. Broad, and Mr. Sharpeye, or (my favorite) High, Wide, and Cleareyed.

Recently, Cotsen acquired a set of the three titular characters from the folk tale. . . as toys!

9. 3 toys

Dlouhý, Široký a Bystrozraký : item 6979392

The toys were manufactured in the Czech city of Brno by Umělecko-řemeslné dílny Bohumira Čermáka (the Applied-arts workshop of Bohumira Čermáka) in the 1920’s. The figures are an excellent example of the Vienna Secession artistic approach being applied outside of Austria, and outside of mainstream art mediums (this latter boundary being one which the movement was especially interested in challenging).

High, leaning on his staff for support

High, leaning on his staff for support

Wide, but not too wide

Wide, but not too wide

Cleareyed, unfortunately he is missing the feather in his cap

Cleareyed, unfortunately he is missing the feather in his cap.

 

Since we acquired these wonderful toys I wanted to see if Cotsen had any books related to the folk tale. As usual, the collection did not disappoint. We found several brilliantly illustrated books which include the folk tale. We were even fortunate enough to find an english translation of the tale.

0. all books

from left to right: 33915, 65127, 15156, 28474, 30828

The first book in the picture is a collection of Erben stories translated into English by Dora Round called The Fire Bird and Other Selected Czech Folk and Fairy Stories (London : P.R. Gawthorn, 1943), illustrated by Emil Weiss. The next book is Der Lange, der Dickbäuchige und der Scharfäugige, a German language retelling of High, Wide, and Cleareyed, strikingly illustrated by Květa Pacovská (Praha : Artia Verlag,1979). Then comes a Czech collection of Erben tales: Erbenovy pohádky, illustrated by Jiří Trnka (Praha : Melantrich, 1940). České pohádky is next, written by Erben and illustrated by Artuše Scheinera (Praha : Českomoravské podniky tisařské a vydavatelské, 1926). And last comes Povídám, povídám pohádku, including stories by Erben and other authors this book is illustrated by Rudolf Adámek (V Praze : Ústřední nakladatelství a knihkupectví učitelstva československého, 1929).

Below is a brief retelling of the classic Czech folktale (paraphrased from Round’s translation), complete with numerous illustrations from the sources above:

The story opens with an aged king and his only son. Since the king is old, he requests that his son marry soon, before he dies. The prince is eager to wed and make his father happy but he doesn’t have the slightest idea of who he can marry. The king hands his son a key and instructs him to climb to the top of a tower and from the portraits he finds there, he should select a bride.

The king and the prince, page [1] 28474

The king and the prince, page [1] 28474

In the tower the prince finds twelve magical portraits of crowned maidens, each one beckoning towards him. They are all very beautiful, but behind a white curtain the prince finds the most beautiful of them all, but she is dressed all in white and looks pale and sad. The prince chooses her as his bride and informs his father who is immediately unhappy. The king explains that that particular maiden is imprisoned by an evil wizard. Many have tried to rescue her before but none have returned (of course).

The tower page [2] 28474

The tower, page [2] 28474

Behind the curtain page 88 33915

Behind the curtain, page 88 33915

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the start of the prince’s quest for his bride, he quickly gets lost in the woods. But he runs into High, who magically stretches taller than the trees and finds the quickest way out of the woods. Next High sees his friend Wide and brings him over. Wide demonstrates that he can expand to huge proportions.

High reaches, page [4] 28474

High reaches, page [4] 28474

The prince meets Wide, page 18-19 spread 65127

The prince meets Wide, page 18-19 spread 65127

Next they run into High’s friend Cleareyed, who explains that he must keep his eyes covered because he can see too well, if his eyes are uncovered he can look through objects, burst them into flames, or shatter them to pieces.

The prince’s three new helpers prove invaluable for overcoming obstacles and turning what would otherwise be a very long journey into a single day trip. They arrive inside the wizard’s castle at nightfall, and the drawbridge is drawn-up behind them.

page 11 30828

page 11 30828

plate 92 33915

plate 92 33915

recto frontispiece 65127

recto frontispiece 65127

Inside the castle, all the courtiers have been turned to stone. They happen upon the dining room where a lavish feast is prepared, after politely waiting, they decide to dig in. Suddenly the wizard rushes in. He is dressed in a long black robe fastened with three iron clasps at the waist; he is leading the lovely pale maiden, dressed in white and pearls. The wizard explains that the prince can take the maiden only if he can prevent the wizard from stealing her back over the next three nights in the castle. High stretches across the dining room covering all the walls, wide blocks the doorway, and Cleareyed stands vigil in the center. They all fall asleep.

The castle plate 16 15156

The castle, plate 16 15156

The dinner hall, page 15 30828

The dinner hall, page 15 30828

When the prince awakes he realizes the maiden has vanished. Cleareyed, however, spots her one hundred miles off, turned into an acorn on a tree in a forest. High stretches to her position and Cleareyed fetches her. She turns back into a woman when she is delivered to the prince. The wizard, naturally, is furious and then one of the iron clasps bursts off. The travelers are left alone again and the prince realizes that everything and everyone inside the castle is frozen in time.

Fetching the acorn page 31 65127

Fetching the acorn, page 31 65127

All are turned to stone page [14] 28474

All are turned to stone, page [14] 28474

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our heroes are charged with watching over the maiden for a second night, they all fall asleep like before. Again the princess is gone when they wake. Cleareyed spots her two hundred miles off, this time turned into a jewel inside a stone, inside a mountain. He and High fetch her again. The furious wizard loses a second iron clasp.

Once again the our heroes are charged with watching over the maiden for a third night, once again they all fall asleep, and once again the maiden has vanished when they awake. Cleareyed spots the princess at the bottom of the Black Sea, as a gold ring inside a shell, three hundred miles away. This time High takes Wide and Cleareyed with him.  High tries to stretch his arm to the bottom of the sea, but he cannot reach. So Wide puffs himself out and then drinks up the Black Sea, and then High can reach the gold ring.

 Retrieving the ring just in time, page 43 65127

Retrieving the ring just in time, page 43 65127

The wizard bursts into the dining room triumphantly before the prince’s companions can return. But all of a sudden, the gold ring comes crashing through a window and turns into the princess (Cleareyed had seen the wizard coming and High had thrown the ring from very far away). The wizard curses, his last buckle bursts, and he turns into a crow and flies off.

The crow, page 20 15156

The crow, page 20 15156

The whole castle comes to life and time happily resumes. All the residents of the castle thank the prince, but he humbly insists that it is all thanks to High, Wide, and Cleareyed. The prince and princess are married and the wedding lasts three weeks. The prince tries to persuade his new friends to stay and have a comfortable life, but they choose to wander the world helping people instead.

The happy marriage, page 51 65127

The happy marriage, page 51 65127

The heroes wander on, page [18] 28474

The heroes wander on, page [18] 28474

We hope you enjoy these tales, toys, and pictures as much as we do. It’s always a pleasure to discover what gets offered to the collection and what the collection has to offer.

Curator’s Choice: Playing Old Maid with Hunca Munca and her Friends

When I was little, playing Old Maid with a specially designed set of cards beat a standard deck hands down.   The peculiar characters (caricatures, really) were much more satisfying than the bland flat faces of the kings, queens and jacks in the old Bicycle deck, with the cupids peddling for dear life on the red or blue backs…

It never occurred to me when my daughter was little to make her a unique deck of Old Maid cards, maybe because cards were not all that high on the list of fun things to do until Five Crowns came along.  Designing the twenty-odd pairs of characters would have a bit more than I was up to because repeated requests to draw the beautiful Chicken of the Sea mermaid strained by my artistic abilities were strained to the breaking point!

However, some children are lucky enough to know adults who draw well enough to craft toys and games for them.  Sometimes lucky curators are offered rare specimens that survived against the odds.  This little set of Schwarzer Peter cards is just one such find.  “Schwarzer Peter”—that is, “Black Peter”–is the name that Old Maid goes by in German, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, and Finnish.  The card with Black Peter is the hot potato that all the players try to get rid of as quickly as possible so it won’t be in their hand at the end of the game.  In this particular set, the Black Peter is depicted offensively as a black rag doll instead of the more usual chimney sweep.

inprocess item 6541473

inprocess item 6541473

The set has twenty-seven, not fifty-two cards, and seems to be complete because it fits perfectly in the blue box with the illustrated title label that reads in translation: “This game of Black Peter was painted for her dear friends Ernst and Anneliese Grossenbacher in St. Gall.”  It is signed Gertrud Lendorff, who just might be the Swiss art historian from Basel (1900-1981). The title label depicts a black baby doll and Lendorff’s model might have been a Heubach bisque character doll.  She redrew the same doll on the card with the caption “Der Schwarze Peterli! Nicht der Schwarze Peter!” [The little Black Peter! Not the Black Peter!].  It is an opprobrious caricature with unnaturally bright red lips.  But unlike some Heubach black baby dolls, it wears what looks like a knitted onesie instead of some spurious form of “native dress.”

covertitle

The cards cannot be earlier than the 1930s: the pair with the Union Jack in the upper left hand corners consist of Pamela and “Margaret Rose aus England.”  Margaret Rose is a little girl in a blue coat and hat with a green scarf, who must be the late Princess Margaret (1930-2002), Queen Elizabeth II’s sister.

swiss_cards_brit

For the most part, the cards depict all kinds of toys made of porcelain, clay, celluloid, and wood, such as Hansli and the matryoshka doll Tatyiana and her five daughters shown below.

swiss_cards_babtanddolls

A famous character from children’s books also makes an appearance here: Beatrix Potter’s Hunca Munca from The Tale of Two Bad Mice, identified only as “nach einem Englischen Kinderbuch,” that is, “from an English children’s book.”  It’s amusing that the illustrations of Hunca Munca Lendorff redrew are the ones where this bad little mouse was behaving well relatively well.

Were the little Grossenbachers for whom Lendorff made the cards reading The Tale of Two Bad Mice in German translation?  Or was Lendorff introducing them to a childhood favorite of hers? The cards don’t provide any clues about the circumstances in which they were made or how they were received, but they are testimony to Potter’s appeal outside her homeland.

swiss cards_cover