Friday, August 3, 2012

As Ugly as a Hedgehog

The story of Hans-My-Hedgehog has been the subject of a few posts here: one, which shows the grown half-man half-hedgehog Hans riding astride his rooster as king of the forest, (click here); the other, which is a self-portrait with said rooster and hedgehog (click here). Here is my second installment of Hans-My-Hedgehog, though really, it would be the first following the story's narrative.

As always, the Brothers Grimm version is grim indeed, focusing on the horror of the story.  They look to the father instead of the mother. The father wishes for a son to help him in his old age, to be heir to his farm:

'Once upon a time there was a peasant who had money and land enough, but as rich as he was, there was still something missing from his happiness: He had no children with his wife. Often when he went to the city with the other peasants, they would mock him and ask him why he had no children. He finally became angry, and when he returned home, he said, "I will have a child, even if it is a hedgehog."  Then his wife had a baby, and the top half was a hedgehog and the bottom half a boy. When she saw the baby, she was horrified and said, "Now see what you have wished upon us!"
The man said, "It cannot be helped. The boy must be baptized, but we cannot ask anyone to be his godfather."  The woman said, "And the only name that we can give him is Hans-My-Hedgehog."'

But they miss the point of view of the mother; they did not understand that longing for a child that can run in a woman's blood.

Anthony Minghella's version comes closer to the truth:

'That woman wanted a bairn so bad she wouldn't care what she got.  If she had a hedgehog, she'd bring its snout to her breast...No sooner said than done, she got her wish. No time at all, she has her boy, little ball as ugly as sin with a pointed nose and sprouting hair everywhere, a hedgehog baby with quills as soft as feathers."

One of my favorite renditions of this scene is by an illustrator named Ina, whose subtly-rendered drawings are filled with loving detail (click here).  Ina shows the nursing mother with her gentle, beastly baby. 

What would it be like to finally have that much-desired child, even if it were as ugly as a hedgehog? Would a mother truly scorn that child and make it sleep behind the stove?  Or would the mother love that child as the darling of her heart, would she cuddle it and rock it and nurse it in the night? Would she heat milk for it and feed it to him and sing lullabies into his quills?  What would you do?  This is what I would do.

"Rocking the Hedgehog Baby" Pencil. copyright 2012 Jessica Boehman


  1. such talent! you claim that this is a terrible representation of your work, and if so, how much more beautiful it must really be. praying, sweet friend.....

  2. Ηі! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!
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  3. Thanks so much! Can't wait to fix this image with a new/better scan so you can get a better sense of it.