The Boy And The Hen
De jongen met de kip (‘The Boy And The Hen’) can be read in more than one way, just as Dros’s novel Annelie In The Depths Of The Night, . As a parable about the dangers of unlimited power, as a dream in which desires are realized and as a nightmare in which everything dark and gloomy is burched together.
Matt’s life is changed dramatically on the Monday that he gets to school late because a group of bullies have pushed him off the dyke for the umpteenth time.
‘I fell in the water,’ started Matt.
‘Excuse number one!’ cackled the teacher.
‘And then I had to go home to put on some dry clothes.’
‘And then I had to make the teacher believe it,’ she mimicked him.
A word swelled up in Matt’s brains. The word got too big for his head, his lips parted and it came out, loud and clear.
‘Hen!’ said Matt.
Fat hen! he thought. Ugly, fat, waddling, stupid hen. Why don’t you learn how to cluck? Go on hen, cluck! Fat hen! Imagine his surprise when a few seconds later the teacher really is scurrying around like a chicken. A stupid fat chicken that can only say ‘cluck’. At first Matt doesn’t realize what kind of power he has acquired but it soon becomes clear. Since the fight that morning a white hen has been continually scratching around in his vicinity. This hen makes sure that all Matt’s wishes come true. His mother buys in ten jars of peanut butter. His father suddenly eats salad. He can join in in all the football games and becomes the most popular boy in the school, the hero of the village. Matt has acquired unlimited power.
At first it seems fantastic but when there is nothing left to wish for Matt gets bored to death. The arrival of a billionaire and a journey around the world change that. Until Matt discovers that the combination of power and money is very dangerous. Then he wants to get rid of his power. It is high time for him to awake from his nightmare.
Matt’s dream is part of an intriguing larger story about a devilish rooster that wants to win a white hen over to evil. To his great annoyance he has to finally agree that such a good hen will not put up with everything.
The devil story, the various parts of the dream, the witty comments about the untrustworthiness of people and institutions, the adventures Matt experiences and the descriptive language raise De jongen met de kip to the level of an Alice in Wonderland or a Pinocchio. With this book Imme Dros confirms yet again her superior qualities as a writer and her sharp view of humanity. Harrie Geelen’s individualistic illustrations show both these qualities to their best possible advantage.
By Joke Linders