Freaky Fables: The Career of Richard the Lionheart – according to Handelsman!

Those of a bookish disposition have a tendency, in middle age, to go in search of the books that they read in their formative years.  I will not disclaim any such tendency.  Rather, I have just come across an item that I read when I was very much younger, which I thought that I might share with you.

By some process unknown to me – for I do not think my parents were subscribers – I often saw copies of Punch magazine in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  This often contained a full-page cartoon by “Handelsman”, headed “Freaky Fables”.  The cartoon retold some fairy-tale, or traditional or biblical story, much in the manner that we find in 1066 and all that; and none the worse for it.  Many of these have remained in my mind, and probably informed me subtly in various ways.

One of these was a cartoon on the career of Richard the Lionheart (do modern schoolboys even know who he was?).  It was memorable for Handelsman’s version of the song of Blondel:

Paul the apostle
Possessed an epistle
So very colossal
It made the girls whistle.

(I imagine that a few people remember this, which is why I give it where Google can find it!)

Of course there was a certain coarseness to much of the material in Punch – sometimes it could be dreadfully louche.  Another problem is that humour is one of the things that dates most quickly; and what was sharp in 1980 often seems flabby in 2015.

J.B. Handelsman did publish a couple of collections of this well-remembered material, and a copy of one of them came into my hands last week.[1]  To my delight it contained the Richard the Lionheart cartoon.  I post it here for your amusement (or not!).  (Click to get a larger version, and save locally if using IE which doesn’t display mono .png’s very well)

Freaky Fables: Richard the Lionheart. By "Handelsman".
Freaky Fables: Richard the Lionheart. By “Handelsman”.
  1. [1]J.B. Handelsman, Freaky Fables, Methuen, 1984. ISBN 0-413-55980-7.  Foreword by John Cleese. 64p.

4 thoughts on “Freaky Fables: The Career of Richard the Lionheart – according to Handelsman!

  1. How lovely to have a red & yellow “Welcome back,” though I never actually left. That was the beginning and totality of today’s social exchange, however, and so, pathetic, but welcome. I cut and paste what sails into the Inbox, and have saved all blog missives in a “Spiritual Writing” folder. I actually have a row of history folders for a couple of things (volumes) I’ve been working on forever, on New England History: specifically, New Hampshire’s history. Today’s intrusion hardly fits there, but my cluttered historical material already has a full “Pre-1600” folder, and a Richard the Lionheart cartoon strip doesn’t really fit any of my 50-year incremental history folders: to 2000 AD. Just yesterday, I brought your blog to the attention of my local parish pastor, having assumed anyone driving a vehicle bearing a license plate of “SPQR1” would love to see what’s blogged in the world of ancient scholarship. (I got to your blog looking for digitized Bollandist volumes.) I don’t know if the priest signed on or not, but I’ve smiled considering how my hype might be re-considered, in light of today’s cartoon strip. I think he’s likely to consider its merit, particularly in light of the boorish venality of the essay by “Dr. C.” (I went to the source) which you handled with amusement and polite disdain. Loved it. I’m much more of a mind to dismissively flip off something like that, mumbling, “What a jerk.” Regardless, keep the great stuff circulating. I thoroughly enjoy everything you write.
    BTW, I know Richard the Lionhearted, and I’m only a Brit by ancestry.

  2. Thank you very much for your kind words! A license plate of SPQR1 … how marvellous!

    I’m glad you appreciated what I wrote about Dr. C.’s article. I did remove some of it, after thinking about writing a separate response, so I don’t know which version you saw. 🙂 I probably should have just left it alone.

    It’s all very well to have folders of stuff; so long as we can find it! (And, of course, so long as we have backups of it!)

  3. Your memory of somehow reading Punch when your folks didn’t subscribe is exactly mine. My uncle took Punch and it was all there was to read during those boring visits. I cut all of the Handelsmann comics and put them in a scrapbook aged about 10. Loved your commentary.

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