Hear the story of Parsley in The Origin of Parsley as it was told to Bemelmans,
and take a look at the first published telling as The Old Stag and the Tree.
Origin of Parsley
As told to the author at an inn, high in
by a newly-found friend of Barbara's, Bemelmans' daughter.
"Of Cows’ Milk and Laval’s Dog"
Father Dear Father
|The next day, on a Sunday, the natives went past the
window on their way to church, and inside the Stüberl sat Wendelin between my
mother and Barbara. He was buttering bread and dunking it in his coffee.
"Poppy, there are also pigs and chickens living in the inn, and Waldi loves
Little Bit. They are out playing together, and this poor man, Mr. Wendelin, has
had to sleep on straw with the horses and cows all night."
I knew why
Wendelin had slept on straw. He had celebrated my homecoming so thoroughly that
he had been unable to make the stairs up to his room.
Wendelin wore his
saddest face. In the coated voice of the disinherited he gave his poorhouse
answers. Barbara had started a sociological study. The lighthouse was flashing.
"Did you know, Poppy, that Mr. Wendelin is a writer?"
I knew that
Wendelin had sold flour and cigarettes on the black market and occasionally made
deals, selling horses, cows, and arranging things between people as a kind of
arbitrator. But I had not known about his literary talent.
"Yes, he has
written for newspapers, and he has written a darling story for children, and all
he needs is someone to illustrate it."
I was reaching for my hat to go out.
There was a scream in the hall and the sound of porcelain and glass crashing.
Waldi had chased Little Bit through the legs of a waitress, and two breakfast
trays lay beside her on the floor. The dogs had run outside, and the white fluff
of Little Bit disappeared into the powdery snow, so that only the ribbon in her
hair hopped along, and after her came Waldi. He seemed like a dark brown snake
cut into pieces, the pieces jumping in the snow.
Barbara is a single-minded
person. She ignored the disaster and held on to my sleeve. "It takes just a
minute, Please listen to Mr. Wendelin's story."
"It's absolutely original, unpolitical, and safe," said
Wendelin. "The story of my children's book goes like this: Hereabouts, in the
high crags of the Alps, live a papa deer and a mamma deer. One day a dead-shot
kind of hunter comes up from the valley below and spies the papa deer, who,
unfortunately, is not young any more and is losing his eyesight and cannot see
the hunter. Just as the hunter has his gun in position and is about to shoot, he
gets his foot caught in the root of a big, benevolent pine tree which stands at
the edge of an abyss. The hunter trips, and falls down the abyss, and is killed.
The gentle tree, the friend of the deer family, had foresightedly, with one of
its limbs, lifted the binoculars from the hunter's shoulder as he fell. They
were attached to a shoulder strap, and now they swing on the branch of this
tree, and all the papa deer has to do is walk there several times a day and look
into the valley through the binoculars. He can see the approaching hunters long
before they reach the mountain and go into hiding, and he and his family will
live happily forever after."
Wendelin stopped talking. "Wonderful, no?" he
said after a pause. "Of course, it needs a little polishing, and somebody to
"It's just perfect for you, Poppy," said Barbara.
I went out to look for the dogs.
At the edge of a deep, a deep green forest
an old, lone pine tree looking out
over the valley below.
It had started
life there, emerald green and hopeful,
and for a while stretched its little
unworried to the sky,
but then it discovered that it stood
the edge of an abyss,
and that the wind blew at it
day and night,
and that the snow tried to smother it.
It knew that if it wanted to stay
it had to fight,
and so it held onto the rocks
with a will, and
It got old, so old
that several generations of trees
that stood in the protected forest
and grew up, easily and straight,
fell to the ax, and became
parts of houses, furniture, and ships
the world below.
Nobody wanted the crooked pine.
It was useless to men.
It had grown so big
that its twisted boughs
spread like a green
tarpaulin, low over the ground,
and in this safe shelter,
in a home of molded leaves and mosses,
a stag raised his
and the tree and the stag were grateful
to each other. And both
got very, very old.
The stag was a grandfather many times,
antlers were the biggest in the forest.
He wore whiskers,
and he came
daily to the tree,
not to sleep there any more,
for his old friend had
and no longer could offer him cover.
He came there out of
and to look out over the valley below
so that he could warn
who played in the deep forest, of danger approaching.
And when the old tree and the old stag
were together, weather-beaten the
one, and gray the other,
it was difficult to tell which were the antlers and
which the barren boughs.
One day, a hunter below, looking through his
saw the stag, in the first morning blush,
the stag did not see him, for his eyesight was failing.
The young deer
played while danger approached,
and the old deer wandered off to feed at the
of the forest,
while the hunter carefully climbed
and came up
over the edge of the abyss.
The stag stood just right
The hunter leaned against the tree
to steady himself,
but suddenly, just as he was about
to squeeze the trigger,
whispered his warning.
From betwixt two clouds that were as puffed cheeks
there came a burst of wind,
and the tree twisted and knocked against the
and one of the roots tripped him,
and he fell and fell, followed
until he lay, far below, to hunt no more.
The gun was lost in
but swinging back and forth quietly
on one of the crooked arms
of the pine
hung the sharp binoculars,
which the tree
had lifted off
the hunter's shoulders
as he fell.
And now all the old stag has to do
is to stand there and look down into the valley
through the binoculars
for other hunters,
and if he doesn't die of old age,
he and his
will live happily forever after.
The Old Stag and The Tree