Arts & Entertainment

How ‘Heer Bommel’ became Squire Bomble - A Dutch icon comes to America

08fb8899175c1956de26_bomble_1.jpg
Credits: © Text and Images Toonder Company, Netherlands
08fb8899175c1956de26_bomble_1.jpg

During this eventful political season, TAPinto Sparta has been running a daily feature ‘The Mighty Barribal’ by Dutch graphic novelist Marten Toonder. All episodes are available online in the Opinion Column. The story will be featured until Election Day. Today an in-depth interview with the translator, Adrian Meerman, about the story and its setting. The interview was edited for clarity.

 

The Mighty Barribal has been running in TAPinto for almost two weeks now and judging by the number of hits each episode has received, there seems to be a growing audience. Four towns in our area have picked it up so that’s a good geographic reach. How do you feel about the reception of the story?

Pleased, obviously. During the years that I worked on this story and several others, I had an audience of maybe two or three family members (chuckles), so this is a whole new dimension. I never knew if the story would catch on or if a wider audience would take to Bomble. He is an everyman, of course, even if he lives in a castle with a manservant and all, and that may well be his greatest appeal. And then the shape of his world, drawn like an old-time fable populated with animal figures, allows people to imagine a world different from their own, a World 2.0 as it were, one they wouldn’t mind having the keys to. I am very happy that people want to spend some of their reading time there.

Sign Up for E-News

 

You mention the ‘shape’ of Bomble’s world. Were the drawings done by the author himself?

Yes; he had an art background and even though he later collaborated with others on some of his output, he remained the essential creator of the Bomble stories. The drawings allowed him to be very succinct in his narrative style since the visuals are already there. It’s what makes his work true graphic novels; text and images completing each other, though each telling a slightly different story. The images show you very directly what’s going on, they cannot lie, even though they give such a quirky portrayal of the world. The more adult text has to then mold itself around this reality without ever saying ‘Look! There’s talking animals driving cars’ because once you say it, the magic is gone.

 

One of your main characters is Squire Bomble. What makes him a squire and not a mister?

Bomble never refers to himself as ‘squire,’ only as ‘gentleman,’ a gentleman of quality. That last bit is important to him, not to be an ordinary gentleman. A squire traditionally was a country gentleman who oversaw the welfare of the tenant population of his area. He was not nobility but would still carry a certain authority. Calling him Squire such-and-such was a way to acknowledge that. In this story, only Ocelot, Jobes, and the narrator refer to him as Squire Bomble, because they (and by extension we) are part of the inner circle who love and respect him. To everybody else in that world he is plain old Mister Bomble.

 

And Ocelot, how does he fit it?

Ocelot is Bomble’s best friend but that’s about all that we know about him. He has no family, essentially no past and hardly any sense of the future. His singular name ‘Ocelot’ reflects this lack of ties with the world. He was the original hero of the series but once Bomble appeared on the scene, he assumed the number two slot. He is inventive, bounces back from any situation, and has saved Bomble from more than one hopeless situation. His internal world is only in small spaces, in certain details of the story, whereas Bomble is all out there. Toonder thought of him as the rational principle and Bomble as the emotional heart of the stories.

 

What attracted you to this particular story? There seems to be a lot of relevance in it for our times.

What I like about this story is how it works on different levels. There is the adventure story of two good friends bumping into a dangerous giant and after lots of back and forth, unmasking him and saving the day. Then there is the psychological story of looking into the cave of your own subconscious and finding monsters hiding in there. You can run but they still have a way of finding you until you confront them directly. And then, there is this amazingly topical quality to the story since the whole country right now is dealing with an angry giant roaming the land. At this point in the story, Barribal is making his way into town so we’ll see how that goes; maybe get some good tips on how to deal with the situation.

 

Hmm. We could certainly use some of that...

True, but we are talking about a real country with 300 million people versus a story built around maybe a dozen or so different characters. Still, the principle that we each have an internal reality that bumps up against the outside world holds true no matter where we live. It’s fascinating to see, though, how a classic story like this has a message for different times and places. In Holland, too, it regularly surfaces during contentious election seasons; although nothing like what we’re experiencing today.

 

When was this work originally created?

This story is from the mid-1960s, which was a time of great liberalization in Holland, when some people pined for the good old days of law and order while others remembered the terror of the political strongmen from midcentury Europe. Looking at that struggle through the eyes of a child is maybe the only way to extract a timeless message from it.

 

Talking about the eyes of a child, one striking feature of this story is the use of animal figures alongside humanlike characters. How should the reader see this unusual mixture?

To me, it goes to the heart of Toonder’s creativity, literally beginning in the nursery of the house where he grew up. He and his brother would spend hours inventing stories using any toys and gadgets, pull up the furniture in the room, a table and chairs doubling as a dark and dangerous forest and a dresser as a mountain range, and there was their magical world of adventure. I think a story like ‘Barribal’ is best understood as a children’s story for adults. You have the grownup themes, like fear of chaos, but they get combined with the existence of giants and talking animals, straight from a child’s perspective. And like the TAPinto daily format, Toonder first published his stories a page a day, and his readers saw these stories as a reflection of their own lives and their own society.

 

A kind of reporting from an alternate world?

Yes. Toonder as a journalist from a fictional version of Holland. The text, by the way, never refers to the characters as having animal shapes; that’s all in the images. Instead, his writing uses a lot of understatement combined with straight-faced exaggeration that reveals a playful narrator.

 

For example?

Take the very first sentence of the story. Ocelot is quasi-seriously described as a sharp little fellow ‘who prepares for the future,’ not with a solid 401-K as you’re supposed to do but with a good stack of firewood. So right away Toonder creates a playful tension between our reality and that of his imaginary world. Or Squire Bomble who spouts a bit of nonsense on the same page about ‘the sun [which] eliminates all bad vapors and that’s a fact.’ No, that’s not a fact and we all know it, but without missing a beat, Toonder then says: ‘explained Squire Bomble,’ as if science were involved after all. There is a tremendous economy of words throughout the text. For me it was a lot of fun coming up with English equivalents to his original style.

 

That’s the big challenge of translation, then.

Yes and no. I think it goes beyond translation. Translation itself is based foremost on being truthful to the original text. At the most basic level, you can translate a user manual for a piece of equipment and you’ll have to be as precise as possible. Here it’s more about how Toonder intended to reach his Dutch readers. He played off the Dutch language, but also off cultural and political trends in Holland at that time. I am trying to do something similar with our language and try to imagine how Toonder might have used the tricks available in English.

 

Tricks?

Possibilities, more like. Small changes in how words are used, taking back the literal meaning from figurative language. Like the time when the rain ‘showered Squire Bomble with unwanted attention’, and he really did get wet, not just metaphorically.

 

How about puns?

Never. Puns are like mimes. Everybody groans even at the thought of them.

 

How about a happy ending?

(Laughs) You’ll be pleased with how the story ends. There’s a good meal in it for everybody.

We’ll have to leave it at this. Thanks for your time and for putting the good squire on the map for us.

Thanks for your questions; it was fun. And I do hope to hear comments and questions from your readers as well. I know you have an excellent Facebook page at TAPinto and I’d love to hear from everybody. Thanks again.

 

© Text and Images Toonder Company, Netherlands

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Sparta

Sparta Police: Drunk Brooklyn Man Asks Police to Shoot Him

May 20, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – A Brooklyn man was taken for observation when he asked police to shoot him after having crashed his car down an embankment on County Road 517 near the Sparta Middle School.  On May 17 around 2:06 a.m. Sparta Police Officers Brian Porter and Timothy Lynott found Joshua Lindland of Brooklyn asleep in the driver’s seat of a gray Audi against a tree, police ...

Sparta Police: Passengers Face Drug Charges in Traffic Stop

SPARTA, NJ – Two Wantage women face drug charges after the car they were in was stopped for a broken headlight on Route 15.  On May 5 around 2 p.m. Sparta Police Officer Ben Griffin pulled over Alex Torres, 22, driving a white Honda Accord with two passengers, police say.

The officer saw a metal marijuana grinder behind the driver’s seat.  The car and ...

JCP&L Latest Information, Free Ice and Water

SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ – As of 8:47 p.m. JCP&L is reporting 12,745 customers or 22.11 percent, are without power in Sussex County.  In Sparta 2749 or 32 percent remain in the dark.

JCP&L said they anticipate the “vast majority of the remaining customers to be restored to service by late Thursday.”

JCP&L customers without power can get ice and water ...

Sparta Education Foundation Thanks Community for Dragon Boat Festival Success

May 26, 2018

Dear Editor,

The Sparta Education Foundation’s Fourth Annual Dragon Boat Festival drew thousands to the Lake Mohawk Boardwalk on Sunday, May 20.  From the sponsors, participants and schools to the many volunteers and cheering spectators, the Dragon Boat Festival was a true reflection of Sparta Pride.

Congratulations to the Dragon Boat Festival’s top three teams: First Place ...

Republican Party Values

Campaigns are interesting things.

Throughout the process, my opponents' supporters have labeled me a "political prostitute", "pimping" a message as a "spokesperson". I've been in a public meeting when referred to as a "lackey" who 
"belongs in a cage like the animal you are".

It's been said directly to me by a ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, May 26, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Carousel_image_eda4582229827b1fe4f5_img_7405

Sat, May 26, 11:00 AM

Sparta High School Media Center, Sparta

Sparta High School Art Gala

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, May 27, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 2, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 9, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Sun, June 10, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 16, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Thu, June 21, 2:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Summer Afternoon Garden Soiree

Home & Garden

Carousel_image_6f4ecc7e007a7b295623_farmers_market

Sat, June 23, 9:00 AM

Sparta Health and Wellness parking lot, Sparta

Sparta Farmers Market

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

Van Kirk Homestead Museum, Sparta

Life Along the Wallkil River

Education

Newton's Petition to Move Election Certified, Tabled to May 30 by Council

May 15, 2018

NEWTON, NJ—The petition to move elections from May to November was certified by the clerk and presented to the Newton Town Council at the meeting on Monday night.  The petition has been circulating since April and was a point of controversy in the recent council election campaigns.

According to the town attorney, the town clerk certified “369 valid signatures of qualified ...

Vehicular Homicide Charges for Driver of Paramus School Bus

May 25, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The driver of a school bus involved in a crash on Route 80 last week that killed two people faces two counts of second-degree vehicular homicide/death by auto, it was announced today.

The driver, Hudy Muldrow, 77, of Woodland Park, attempted to make an illegal U-Turn on the highway in an attempt to find his way to Waterloo Village, the planned destination of the bus that was ...

Sneak Peek! Highly Desirable Lake Mohawk 3BR

Longing to live the lake lifestyle? Today's your lucky day! Take a sneak peek at our newest home available in Sparta's highly desirable Lake Mohawk community, and get ready for our OPEN HOUSE Saturday, June 2nd from 1pm-3pm.

This 3 bedroom, 2 bath home at 137 Hillside Road, Sparta, features a wood burning insert in the living room fireplace, perfect ...

Why You Should Buy Your NJ Home Before Interest Rates Rise

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage climbed from 3.95% in the first week of January up to 4.61% last week, marking a 7-year high according to Freddie Mac. Many factors fueled the current pace of acceleration.  Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist, opines:

“Healthy consumer spending and higher commodity prices spooked bond markets and led to higher mortgage ...

Is Your First Home Within Your Grasp Now?

 

Bottom Line


According to the US Census Bureau, ‘millennials’ are defined as 18-36-year-olds.


According to NAR’s latest Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, the median age of all first-time home buyers is 32.


More and more ‘old millennials’ (25-36) now realize homeownership is within their grasp now!

Are YOU ready for ...

Find Your Dream Home During Our DOUBLE Open House Weekend!

The forecast for this weekend is rain, rain, and more rain---so why not spend your time touring your new home?  Team Nest Builder offers 2 wonderful Open Houses this weekend, PLUS a new listing for you to check out via video tour!

27 Hilltop Trail, Sparta

Step into your own fairytale with this Lake Mohawk, storybook-sweet 3-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom gem! Gather in front of the rustic ...

Help Feed Hungry Sussex County Families Through Foodstock

Did you realize food pantry shortages INCREASE during the summer months? Decreased donations and increased need due to the summer break from school lunch and breakfast programs leave many Sussex County families hungry.  

Enter Foodstock:  an annual spring countywide food drive started 15 years ago through the coordinated efforts of Pass it Along, United Way of Northern New Jersey, ...

3 Tips for Making Your Home-Ownership Dream a Reality

 

Here's Highlights:


Setting up an automatic savings plan that saves a small amount of every check = one of the best ways to save without thinking much about it.


Living within a budget right now helps you save money for down payments while also paying down other debts holding you back.  What are you willing to cut back on to make your dreams of homeownership ...

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 15

On this week’s AtlantiCast, learn some important tips for controlling and avoiding diabetes from an Atlantic Health System expert, see how Atlantic Health is advancing cutting-edge research, hear what’s being done to keep health care environmentally friendly and much more!

 

Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders May 9 video

SUSSEX COUNTY, NJ - Video of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders May 9 meeting. 

 

SURVIVING A STROKE: Quick Medical Response Gives Mom Her Life Back

Carotid artery dissection. It’s one of the most common causes of stroke in younger adults.

And while you might not associate the word “stroke” with younger patients, the condition – if not treated immediately – could lead to paralysis and even death.

Lindsey Singh can attest to the importance of immediacy. The 31-year-old mother of two from Flanders experienced ...

Enrollment Begins June 2 For Lord Stirling's Summer Riding Lessons

May 26, 2018

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — The Somerset County Park Commission will be conducting registration for summer horseback riding classes and other seasonal programs at Lord Stirling Stable, located at 256 South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge, N.J.  

Lessons are offered to juniors (ages 9-17) and adults, and will accommodate first-time beginners through more advanced levels with jumping ...