Enkomputiligis Don HARLOW

Three Cartoon Adaptations: Aventuroj de Tom Sawyer; Ribelo kontraŭ la Ĉiela Palaco; Nezha kirlas la maron

by Mark TWAIN, TANG Deng

reviewed by Don Harlow

TWAIN, Mark: Aventuroj de Tom Sawyer. Budapest: Hungara Esperanto-Asocio, 1981. 28 p.
TANG Deng: Ribelo kontraŭ la Ĉiela Palaco. Beijing: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1980. 84 p.
Nezha kirlas la maron. Beijing: El Popola Ĉinio, 1981. 80 p.

I'm waiting for someone to publish "Spider-Man" in Esperanto. At the rate picture books and comic books are being printed in the language these days, I may not have long to wait. Here are three recent offerings -- and a fun lot they are, too.

Tom Sawyer is HEA's fourth black-and-white comic book of the Classics Illustrated tradition. The first two (Filoj de la ŝtonkora homo and Steloj de Eger) were based on Hungarian historical novels that deserve to be better known in the West -- and probably would be, if Hungarian were a language that anybody in the United States would bother to translate from. The third (La faraono) was from Prus's 19th century work about ancient Egypt, which had the distinction of being one of the first major works to be translated into Esperanto. Tom Sawyer is, of course, familiar to every American reader; without going into detail, I might best describe it as a retelling, with embellishments, of Sam Clemens's own boyhood along the Mississippi River in northeastern Missouri.

By and large, Tibor Horvath, who adapted the story to this particular format, has played fair with Twain and his characters, though perhaps he has placed occasional emphases in other locations than I would have put them (for instance: a whole page is devoted to the incident of "The Master's Gilded Pate"; and on the other hand, I feel that he has unreasonably slighted Becky Thatcher). Attila Dargay, the artist, is certainly more of a caricaturist than a realist; but that's no disadvantage in this sort of work, and the same thing can be said, in the same way, about Charles Schultz of Peanuts and Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury.

For those who like Twain, I might mention that, in the preface, Vilmos Benczik promises us a similar rendering of Huckleberry Finn before the year is out.

The two Chinese picture stories remind me of nothing so much as early Disney. (1) There is the same reliance on stories so old as to be almost folk tales, the same striking colors, the same attention to detail that we find in "Snow White" and "Sleeping Beauty", and the same unwillingness to omit the violence and cruelty that are as much a part of the world as its beauty.

Some Western readers, notably martial arts fans, will be familiar with the stories. (2) In Ribelo, which is taken from an old Chinese novel, Pilgrimage to the West, the Monkey King Sun Wukong is embroiled by the hostile Dragon King of the Eastern Sea in a war against the Heavenly Emperor. After a long conflict marked by trickery and battle, the Monkey King (whom his fans in this country often refer to simply as "Monkey") storms the Heavenly Palace and reduces it, driving the Emperor and his cohorts away.

Ribelo is largely fun; there is a little darker side to Nezha, which is based on a legend from the Ming Dynasty period. Nezha, son of Li Jing, the Garrison Commander of Chentang Gap, gets into a donnybrook with Ao Guang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea (apparently the same one we met in Ribelo; and Nezha has a minor role in that book, too). After defeating Ao Guang and his cohorts, the Dragon Kings of the other three seas, Nezha is forced by his father to commit suicide to preserve the safety of his people. But Master Taiyi brings him back to life and gives him magical powers and implements so that he may definitively conquer the Dragon Kings and make his homeland safe for its people.

Chinese history, which is considerably longer than Western history, ought to be full of stories which can be made into great picture books like these. (3) In the meantime, I recommend all three of these volumes to you. Any one of them is good for a pleasant hour for you and -- if you have children learning Esperanto -- for them as well. (4)


(1) This was written before the recent Disney renaissance, which includes a cartoon feature based on the ancient Chinese song Mulan.
(2) In 2001 Sun Wukong and his companions made the "big time" in America as featured characters in an NBC miniseries.
(3) Sun Wukong reappeared later in another Esperanto adaptation from Pilgrimage to the West, "Senmortigaj fruktoj".
(4) You might also want to check out Ĉinaj mitoj.

Aliaj Recenzoj

La libro haveblas ĉe
(Nezha) Universala Esperanto-Asocio
(Tom Sawyer) Flandra Esperanto-Ligo