Snufkin

In Germany feeling like Snufkin..

“To this old park came Snufkin with Little My in his pocket. He crept silently along the fence, looking in at his old enemy, the Park Keeper.

“What are you going to do to him?” asked Little My. “Hang him, boil him, or stuff him?”

“Scare him!” replied Snufkin and clenched his teeth around the pipe-stem. “There’s only one person in the whole world whom I truly dislike, and that’s the Park Keeper. I’m going to pull down all his notices about forbidden things.”

Snufkin now rummaged in his knapsack and pulled out a large paper bag. It was full of small glossy white seeds.

“What’s that?” asked Little My.

“Hattifattener seed,” answered Snufkin.

“Oh,” said Little My, astonished. “Do Hattifatteners come from seeds?”

“They do,” said Snufkin. “But the important thing is: only if the seeds are sown on Midsummer Eve.”

He began throwing handfuls of seed between the fence rails. He crept noiselessly along the whole of the park fence and scattered his seeds everywhere, but was careful to throw them sparsely, so that the Hattifatteners wouldn’t have their paws entangled when they came up. When Snufkin’s bag was empty he sat down, lit his pipe, and waited.

The sun was setting, but the evening was warm, and the Hattifatteners began to grow at once. Here and there on the neatly mowed lawn round white blobs were appearing, like snowball mushrooms.

“Look at that one,” said Snufkin. “In a little while it’ll have its eyes over the earth.”

He was right. Very shortly two round eyes appeared beneath the white skull.

“They’re especially electric when new-grown,” explained Snufkin. “Look now, he’s got his paws!”

The air was already filled with a faint rustling sound from all the growing Hattifatteners. The Park Keeper still hadn’t noticed anything unusual because he was keeping a keen eye on the woodies. But on the lawns all around him Hattifatteners were shooting up in hundreds. They had scarcely more than their feet in the ground. Soon they would take their first steps. A smell of sulphur and burned rubber drifted throught the park. The Park Wardress sniffed.

“What’s that smell?” she asked. “Children, who of you’s smelling?”

Faint electric shocks were noticeable in the ground.

The Park Keeper began to shift his feet uneasily. His shiny metal buttons were flashing small blue sparks.

All of a sudden the Park Wardress gave a cry and jumped up on the seat of her chair. She pointed a shaking finger at the lawn.

The Hattifatteners had grown to life size and now came swarming and moiling towards the Park Keeper from all directions, attracted by his electrified buttons. Small flashes of lightening crossed the air, and the buttons were crackling. Suddenly the Park Keeper’s ears lighted up. Then his hair crackled and sparkled, his nose began to glow – and all of a sudden the Park Keeper was luminous from head to toe! Shining like a full moon he scuttled off toward the park gates, followed by an army of Hattifatteners.

The Park Wardress was already climbing the fence. Only the little children were left. They sat quietly in the sandbox and looked very suprised.

“Smart,” said Little My, impressed.

“And that’s that!” said Snufkin, pushing back his hat. “And now we’ll pull down every single notice, and every single leaf of grass shall be allowed to grow as it likes.”

All his life Snufkin had longed to pull down notices that asked him not to do things he liked to do, and he was fairly trembling with excitement and expectation. He started off with:

NO SMOKINGThen he flew at:

DO NOT SIT ON THE GRASSAfter that he turned on:

LAUGHING AND WHISTLING
STRICTLY PROHIBITED
and the next minute:

NO HOP, NO SKIP
AND DEFINITELY NO JUMP
ALLOWED HERE
followed suit.

The little woodies stared at him with more and more astonishment.

Little by little it was dawning on them that he had come to their rescue. They left the sandbox and gathered around him.

“Go home, little ones,” said Snufkin. “Go wherever you please.”

But they did not go, they followed him everywhere. When the last of the notices was trampled to the earth and Snufkin lifted his knapsack on to his back, they still followed at his heels.

“Shoo, little ones,” said Snufkin. “Run along to your mamma now.”

“Perhaps they have no mamma,” said Little My.

“But I’m not a bit used to children!” said the now terrified Snufkin. “I don’t even know if I like them!”

“They seem to like you,” replied Little My, grinning broadly.

Snufkin looked at the silently admiring group that had flocked around his legs.

“As if one weren’t enough,” he said. “Well. Come along then. But don’t blame me if everything goes wrong!”

And with twenty-four serious little children at his heels Snufkin wandered off over the meadows, bleakly wondering what he would do when they got hungry, had wet feet, or a stomach-ache.”

Tove Jansson

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