Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unser Sandmännchen

Every evening just before 7, a little fellow with a red felt hat and cotton beard visits German kids' TV, taking his viewers around the world on all manner of rides. Monday might find him on a carpet in India, Tuesday, a submarine under the sea, Wednesday, he‘ll guide a troika into the wilds of Russia. The little man, Sandmännchen, visits children in these far off places and watches a short cartoon with them before he sprinkles moon sand into the air and sends his audience to bed. He’s a popular figure in our house, and if Caroline is not too busy with homework, the kids like to curl up together on the sofa and watch his show while we make dinner.

When she first started watching, Caroline was terrified of Sandmänn's power, and would hide her eyes or run from the room when he blew his sleepy sand. A big eight, she laughs at her baby self now, and watches the show with the vast superiority of someone who knows all the words to its nightly song.

"Sandmänn" the kids yell when he appears. I'll scoot in from the kitchen to see which clip is on, cuddle James and talk to Caroline about the fairy tale behind the story or the puppet featured this time (the show is more than 50 years old, so there are many styles to choose from). Then I'll jump back to finish cooking while the children watch the cartoon that's being introduced. Thanks to these shorts, C has learned a fair amount of German, so she'll often summarize for us over dinner later, with James adding his two cents to the story.

Part of Sandmänn's long running appeal is that children can send letters and drawing in to the show. If they're very lucky they'll have their pictures shown on television and even get a prize. After watching for so many years, Caroline decided that before she got too big, she'd send in her own contribution. She drew an illustration from one of her favorite cartoons, wrote a short letter in German, and mailed her package off.

She's still waiting to see if her picture will show up one evening. It's been a few months though, so I recently decided to take matters into my own hands. But that's a post for another day.

Kinder, liebe Kinder, es hat mir Spaß gemacht.
Nun schnell ins Bett und schlaft recht schön.
Dann will auch ich zur Ruhe gehn. Ich wünsch euch gute Nacht."*

Children, dear children, we've had a lot of fun.
Now quickly, to bed and sleep well.
Then I will also go rest. I wish you all good night.

*The last stanza of the last song of the show each night.


Rouchswalwe said...

Dear Julia, I've been reading your November posts with pleasure. Your timing is exquisite ... I've only just found the little wooden Sandmännchen given to me as a little girl. What wonderful memories you've brought back. Vielen Dank!

Roderick Robinson said...

I'm conscious that J. gets missed out of most of my comments because C. occupies centre stage in the way I envisage your family. Belated apologies to J. Not that he needs any help from me. These pieces about language open up a wider and even more commendable subject: the way languages keep crude forms of nationalism at bay. Pride in being able to speak another language means there is less time and less inclination to dwell obsessively on one's accidental birthplace. I speak a small amount of French yet I live in a country where the French are, at best, merely joked about. At worst, detested. I find myself acting as a rather shaky bridge between the two countries, wishing I could do more.

It's not too fanciful to think of C. and J. paying a sort of tax for being born into an Anglophone family. A tax all predominant monoglots should pay. The wonderful thing is that because of your attentions neither will see it as an onerous tax. It's fun and the languages become interchangeable. One night the Sandman will take them to bed, the next night the Sandmännchen. (Did Sandman shrink in the wash in Germany?)

Yesterday I found myself humming a familiar tune but couldn't remember the name. Mrs BB said it was Don Octavio's Dalla sua pace (As you know, I'm not good on aria titles). Googled, heard Pavarotti sing it, the first time I've heard him do Mozart. A whole new vista. Wanted to write about that. But the boats are burned. How about a new blog - one that no one would want to read? Sorry, but we're still on language. I'll bet C. (not J. yet) could sing Dsp, the range seems comparatively limited. And she'd be flirting with Italian too. What a household.

Julia said...

Rouchswalwe - I thought of you when I posted last night, wondering if you also had fond memories of Sandmännchen. I'm so glad to hear that you do.

BB - Caroline has found out, and we hope that James will too, that knowing two languages fluently leads to three and then to more. (Learning to read German took a weekend rather than a year, she was elated). And understanding how to communicate in a language that is apart from yourself is a cultural bridge - a few words in a new language work wonders on playgrounds when we travel.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hope her letter gets chosen!
What a charming little show. There is something so special about the shows kids watch when they're little, isn't there?