Pikkuhenki, is a classic and unusual fairytale about two young heroes, Pikkuhenki and Iwan, who ‘long ago, in a land far from here’ set off into the world, where they are confronted with fear, sadness, doubt, light and darkness and, strengthened by their travels, turn safely homewards.
Iwan has lost his mother in an unknown country that is ruled by a tyrannical emperor. Pikkuhenki (Finnish for ‘a little spirit’) is a tiny invisible witch whose minuscule size makes her doubt her status as a witch. Her invisibility means that Pikkuhenki can fly into people’s thoughts via their nose or ear and can influence them. Floating around in the heads and thoughts of people and animals, she haphazardly tries out her powers. When Pikkuhenki meets Iwan one day and flies around amongst his sad thoughts ‘about being smacked and going to bed without dinner, and about dying and never going back home and about freezing’, she changes Iwan into a hero, who frees the land from the cold-blooded emperor and finds his mother again.
One of Tellegen’s original ideas is Pikkuhenki’s invisibility. This means that readers have the freedom to complete the story by using their own imagination – and so do listeners, because Pikkuhenki is not only a fairytale told in words and pictures in a book, but also has a marvellous musical accompaniment on cd (composed by Klaas ten Holt).
Törnqvist and Ten Holt complete Tellegen’s story. Törnqvist’s strong illustrations, with their sense of colour, reflect Tellegen’s text, sometimes in a very detailed way. The people who Pikkuhenki saw ‘dancing and kissing and shutting each other away for a hundred years in castles covered with roses’ are all there, for example, depicted subtly and with a nod towards Grimm’s fairytales, just as Tellegen does with his words.
Tellegen’s story and voice, Törnqvist’s atmospheric illustrations and Ten Holt’s spectacular composition for wind instruments, percussion, violin and double bass reinforce each other wonderfully and demonstrate how successfully text, picture and music can be integrated.