Friday, 29 April 2011

If TinTin is banned what about Wopsy?

Anything wrong with this picture? No!
Anyone who has taken a ride in a Tuk tuk
or rickshaw would agree I think

Andrew M Brown blogs in the Daily Telegraph about how his local library have put the popular TinTin series of pictorial adventures of a boy and his dog, under wraps, considered politically incorrect don't y'know!
Well, they do feature black people.....hmmm......and Belgians....but I cannot see anything too wrong in that.

Compare it with a series of books written by a White Father, Gerard F Scriven, back in the 1940s. The series featured a Guardian Angel by the unlikely name of Wopsy (I know for a fact that my Guardian Angel has got a pretty manly, Christian type name, not some poncey made up monicker like Wopsy, but there we are).

Enough to put one off devils for life!
 The series was tremendously popular and now the books are collector's items but, I guess, few have read them.
Wopsy (shudder) is GA to a small black boy by the name of Shiny-John and he steers him through life in the jungle, coping with devils (the Business that Walks by Night and the Mid-day Devil) and Leopard Men, (animist sacrificers of young children).
It does have the stuff of nightmares about it but I grew up on it and apart from a nasty twitch and an addiction to a dirty old blanket, it has not affected me in the least.

Seriously, the books do scare but I believe only in the same way that Struwwelpeter or Grimm's Fairy Tales scare. It can do one good to learn fear of God from such a source. One also learns, very well, to have a concern for falling under the influence of the devil - 'not a subject for five year olds' I hear being spluttered in leafy Leamington Spa but, delivered in the right way it is no bad thing to develop a dislike of evil from an early age.

The colour issue is, admittedly, a little dated and tends to treat the African peasant as slightly basic but....hang on to your socks......that is often how African peasants are! Shock, horror! The Equality Gestapo are on the way to my house right now. So, just to set the record straight, peasants the world over can be a little unworldly and simple in their approach to life. So can some marketeers and educationalists that I have worked with!

I grew up in Heston, a White Father's parish on the edge of what is now Heathrow Airport and so began to inhale the Wopsy stories from a very early age and with the encouragement of a great Bishop (we had them in those days). Bishop Walsh who went on to work in Dundee and was finally sent to a monastery because he had a housekeeper who was a divorcee and, despite huge pressure from uncharitable Catholic laity, he refused to sack her, quite rightly so. Not everything was good about pre Vatican II Catholicism.

The Wopsy adventures hammered home, very effectively, the power of God and His angels. Wopsy always triumphed over the devil and Shiny- John was always pulled to safety, physically and spiritually, on every occasion.

Here is a passage from Wopsy and the Witch Doctor, one of a series of four books:-

"The path to Bikonda was very narrow, as were all the paths made by the black men, being made for people who walked not one beside the other, but behind each other. On either side the great trees of the forest rose as high as church steeples as if they were fighting each other to get to the sun. From their high branches great creepers hung down and trailed over the ground. Now and then Shiny-John saw little monkeys climbing up and down them and it seemed to him that they sometimes chattered to him as they rested for an instant. He would have loved to stay and watch them, but Margarita-Maria hurried on with her rosary in her hand. She knew that the great forest was the home of other animals, larger and fiercer than the little monkeys.

Wopsy flew ahead for some distance on either side of the path looking for anything that might be a danger. Now and then he did see something that moved quietly through the undergrowth, in and out the thick tangle of creepers, but he had a way of dealing with such things. Now it was a crafty looking snake slipping along and making a hissing sound, but Wopsy patted it on the head, for he wasn't a bit afraid even, of the most wicked snakes, and made it go to sleep until Margarita-Maria and Shiny were a long way ahead".

All good stuff in my book, metaphors and all but I guess the educational psycho folk will be having spasms right now!
Father Scriven died in 1949 aged thirty seven and despite a wealth of historical data concerning the White Fathers (bit of a non PC name right now) I have found nothing biographical about him other than the fact that, with his white habit he wore a fez, a throwback to the time spent in the missions in Zanzibar I believe.


  1. I doubt your local library has Tintin in the Congo - from which that picture is taken - it was never published in English! Even Herge (perhaps: especially Herge) got embarassed about it.

  2. Great post. Which are more paternalistic? Books that portray Africans as simple but good, or PC ones that portray them as hapless victims?