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. 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)
- J.B. Handelsman, Freaky Fables, Methuen, 1984. ISBN 0-413-55980-7. Foreword by John Cleese. 64p.↩