Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Where the Tiger and Bear Got Their Names

I call my sons the Bear and the Tiger on this blog mostly because I don't want any weirdos invading their privacy. In fact, I try to write mostly about my own reflections on parenting, without a whole lot of identifying detail or anything that would embarrass them later. But those are also their nicknames in real life. They're named after characters in German kids' books by a guy named Janosch. (Just Janosch. That's his whole name.)

The Little Tiger and the Little Bear live in a house on the bank of a river near the woods. The Little Bear is a would-be gourmet who mostly knows how to make bouillon. The Little Tiger is, like any good cat, a bit lazy, but he does like to watch the Bear work. Occasionally the Tiger gathers mushrooms for dinner. They have two constant companions, a tiger-duck and a little green frog called Gunther Kastenfrosch. They both believe in soft, comfy couches.

And they take care of each other, even though the Tiger can't read yet. (He does learn eventually; you can see an online version, in German but with pictures, here.) The Bear has some rudimentary literacy, just enough to get him in trouble. When one day he finds a banana carton labeled "Panama," he gets it in his head that Panama must smell like bananas from top to bottom. That sets them off on a quest for the land of their dreams, but when they ask for directions to Panama, they keep getting told to take the next left turn. After several lefts, they end up - you guessed it - back at their little house between the river and the woods. It's sort of a mild-mannered version of "There's no place like home," minus the witches and tornadoes but with repeated black humor featuring a fox who's "romancing" a goose.

The Bear takes care of the Tiger when he takes sick one day while picking mushrooms. He carries the Tiger home and plies him with his favorite food (well, bouillon), tea, and visitors. He bandages the Tiger from neck to foot, though the Tiger implores him to "leave my back unwrapped" because "I might have to cough." (The picture shows how well that worked.) Finally, the Tiger is carried to the Hospital for Animals by a grand procession of motley woods-dwellers, including an elephant and a vain, flirtatious donkey named Majorca. There, an x-ray reveals the diagnosis: a slipped stripe! The Tiger has an operation ("a little blue dream") and the same caravan of animals schleps him triumphantly home again.

None of this has a whole lot to do with my kids, really. They got the names even before they were born because their dad and I loved the Janosch books. My Bear is a pretty good reader; my Tiger is actually more apt than my Bear to help around the house, though the right verb is more often "help." But like the Little Tiger and the Little Bear, my sons are both intense - both bent on seizing all they can from their young lives. Both are resourceful and quirky. And while they get ferociously on each other's nerves (a topic that deserves a whole 'nother post), like the storybook Bear and Tiger they do adore each other when the day's done and we're all snuggled together on the comfy couch.
All images come from posters at the Little Tiger online shop, which sadly only ships to German addresses.


Sugarmag said...

Hey Sungold! Cute story, my kids are like that, too-they love each other but they also drive each other crazy. I have never heard of those stories but thinking of German stories, I am glad to hear your children are like the Tiger and the Bear rather than Max und Moritz!

Sungold said...

Yeah, I'm grateful too that they don't resemble Max and Moritz! The Janosch books aren't very well known here because even though English translations exist, they just aren't as cute and funny and quirky. I've wondered myself how to translate them without losing their weird charm. But I just don't think I have that particular talent.