Little Mook & Dwarf Longnose by Wilhelm Hauff


I stumbled upon this interesting little book, [amazon-product region=”us” text=”Little Mook & Dwarf Longnose” type=”text”]1567922228[/amazon-product] (part of the Pocket Paragon Book series), at a library sale.  Given my interest in fairy tales and young adult fiction I thought it would be worth the quick read.  This past weekend I pulled it out and read one afternoon.  It was worth it just for the introduction by one of the translators Thomas S. Hansen.

William Hauff’s life was cut short- from overwork and exhaustion no less – at the age of twenty-five but he still managed to leave a legacy behind.  And among German speaking children his fairy tales are second only to the famous Brothers Grimm.  The two stories in this collection are meant as an introduction to his work.

Booklist does a great job of capturing the slim volume:

This petite double feature celebrates nineteenth-century German fantasist Hauff, an unsung contemporary of the Brothers Grimm. Like others in the publisher’s Pocket Paragon series, the book is a pleasure to hold and behold, featuring rich, glossy stock, decorative embellishments, and beautifully reproduced artwork. Though the story “Little Mook” gets top billing, “Dwarf Longnose” is probably better known due to earlier versions illustrated by both Maurice Sendak and Lizbeth Zwerger. The two stories, though, have much in common, each chronicling the adventures of a small, physically odd character who carves his place in the world by dint of cleverness, good-heartedness, and fairy-tale magic. It’s a theme that holds allure for many children, although the high ratio of text to visuals (Russian illustrator Pak’s striking tempera paintings appear only once every five or so pages) makes it most suitable for sharing with middle-graders. The cogent preface by co-translator Thomas S. Hansen will enlighten college-level students of comparative lit, who will enjoy encountering this elegant volume in their libraries as much as Hauff’s intended audience.

The Little Mook involves a poor dwarf forced to make his way in the world alone and penniless.  He finds work with a bizarre cat lady and then stumbles upon a magic staff and slippers. These magic tools help him to find work in a kings court only to have the jealousy of those around him form his undoing.

The second story tells the tale of how a once beautiful young boy is kidnapped and turned into a long nosed dwarf by a witch.  He escapes but no one recognizes him in his deformed state.  He finds work as a chef for a duke only to have his life threatened by a neighboring prince.  With the help of princess who had been turned into a goose he finds his old form and escapes and returns to his family.

The stories themselves, while entertaining, are probably more interesting as part of the history of fairy tales and German folklore than as bedtime stories for your kids (not that they wouldn’t serve that purpose).  But for me the useful intro and the art work, when added to the stories, made it easily worth the two dollars I paid for it.

An odd, yet educational, little find.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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