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Where the wild things were?

Behind the Fraumunster, back in Zurich, there are some cloisters. We like cloisters, and the cloisters behind the Fraumunster are quiet. When we were there, they were in fact so quiet that for twenty minutes or so we had them to ourselves. More than enough time to study some fonts, to look at the statues, but most of all to look at the carvings. The carvings are intricate, which always lead me to some deep thoughts about the skill of stone workers, and the possible worldview they held (see immanence or transcendence). In this rare case, I also found myself wondering how on earth the wild things ended up in Zürich. Of course, sadly, Maurice Sendak recently passed away, but like many people, Where the Wild Things Are has had an enduring effect on my imagination.

Seeing the familiar lank hair, and the slightly unnerving, not-quite-friendly but not-exactly-sinister animalesque faces evoked a strange sense of coincidence. This itself set off a half-remembered chuckle at detective novel cliché – there are no coincidences… but it got me wondering, was this a source for Mr Sendak? After all this time, is this where the wild things were?

Later on, reviewing all our photos, I also stumbled across this beautiful photo:

Perhaps another coincidence, but a fortunate one. The glorious red foliage of this tree evoked another book, which has come to mean so much to us. The Red Tree is a glorious book, and one of Shaun Tan’s finest. I strongly recommend you all immediately go out and buy a copy. Now. I’ll wait whilst you do…it looks like this:

Both books have something of a complex message for young readers – life is not always straightforward or easy, sometimes we have to endure tough days, occasionally we have to go a long way to appreciate what is good in life. This can present a challenge, I am sure, for some children, and maybe for some of their parents too. But what I like best of all is that both also make it clear that most important of all is that there is always something to look forward to. I guess this is a good reminder of the responsibility to try to find that small kernel (dinner, after all; or a shining red tree) that can sustain you in hard times, and that home is never as far away as you think at life’s hardest moments.

I like that Sendak and Tan are brave enough authors to confront childen with how the world can be a complicated place.


Photos by PJD (Fraumunster cloisters, Zurich, in shock at life imitating art) and CIA (random tree in Winterthur, we think)

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. bluntcrayon #

    Superb post. I refer you to a lovely Sendak quotation: ‘how do you write for children? I really have never figured that out, so I decided to just ignore it’.

    Heroes ❤

    June 14, 2012
    • It’s a great quote. Thanks for sharing it! (And glad you enjoyed the post.)

      June 14, 2012
      • bluntcrayon #

        No problem, I’m really enjoying your blog!

        June 15, 2012
  2. Yes, I believe that is where Sendak must have gotten his inspiration for his Wild Things! I think you are on to something!!

    Love your Blog,

    June 14, 2012
    • Glad to hear you like the blog. I don’t know if I can ever know about Sendak and Zürich, but either way I am happy to live with the thought that its possible.

      June 14, 2012
  3. How beautiful, many thanks for sharing. I’ve got the former book, saw the movie and now, I must go and get The Red Tree!

    June 17, 2012

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