Annelie in the Dead of the Night
Children’s fears and fantasies
The important role fantasy and symbolism play in Annelie in the Dead of the Night (1987) earn it a place of its own amongst Imme Dros’ generally realist work. Annelie is taken to her Grandmother’s by her father for unclear reasons and for an indeterminate length of time. Grandma is kind and caring and Annelie sleeps in the bedroom her mother occupied as a little girl, which is full of toys and a four-poster bed. But it doesn’t help. The only bed the little girl wants to sleep in is her own.
Under her eiderdown, Annelie finds ‘the dead of the night’, where she has strange adventures. Scary characters appear and events follow one after another with the associative randomness of a nightmare. In the course of the story, it becomes clear to the reader that the child is gradually becoming sicker and sicker. She talks of being thirsty, of having headaches, she contracts a temperature and lapses into delirium, the doctor is called and she finds herself in a hospital bed. What exactly is wrong with the main character is not revealed. It must be the mysterious, often serious illness caused by anxiety, powerlessness and desolation.
At the turning point in the illness, Mum finally arrives and promises to visit every Sunday from now on; not every day, but she will come every Sunday. The unconditionally happy ending one would like as reader does not prove possible, but there is hope. With this essentially open ending Dros remains true to her approach to young readers, which expresses sympathy and compassion. The eloquence of the narration is reinforced by the subtle drawing pen of Margriet Heymans. She records Annelie’s experiences in an on-going comic strip at the top of each page. ‘The dead of the night’, is brought to life in a perfect harmony of words and pictures by a writer and an artist who both have respect for the mysterious, rich reality of children’s fears and fantasies.
By Bregje Boonstra