Everyone was there
More tales about the squirrel and other animals
Toon Tellegen has been writing his philosophical animal stories since 1984, each about two pages long and unique in their kind: written in a simple, yet sparkling tone, they are hidden gems that, once discovered, exert an irresistible attraction.They tell of Squirrel, Ant, Elephant and all their fellow creatures, whose lives glide along, apparently without meaning, in an impossible biotope: in Tellegen’s forest of animals all of the creatures have the same size and strength and each is the only one of its kind. Everything and everyone lives together in harmony. Everything is possible and there are no obligations.
They have parties, they eat cake, they dance, they write letters, they ask questions without expecting any clear-cut answers and they come and go without knowing where they came from or where they’re going to. As the squirrel says, we are never the masters of our thoughts – they just do what they want, as though we do not exist. So it’s great news that the publication of the chunky anthology Misschien wisten zij alles (Maybe They Knew Everything, 1995) has now been followed by a second Tellegen volume, once again with Mance Post’s distinctive illustrations. Iedereen was er (Everyone Was There) features seven collections of animal stories from the past decade. And Tellegen has written another fifteen elegant tales for the final section ‘Crumbs for Everyone’ (fantastic title!).
Of course these newcomers are also based on Tellegen’s apparent oppositions: choosing and not choosing, dream and reality, time that both stands still and rushes by.
With the questions raised by these contrasts, the animals, like children, disturb our adult reality, making all of our certainties vanish and opening up infinite possibilities.‘What is old?’ asks the mayfly, who lives for only one day. ‘Does time actually exist?’ the tortoise wants to know. For the dormouse, who is looking for his birthday, there is only ‘now’.
For the extinct mammoth, who is searching for obscurity, there is only ‘then’. ‘Time,’ concludes the snail, ‘is a nonsense.’ So, for anyone who wants to dance with words and is prepared to be amazed: read a story a day from Everyone Was There and then go back to the beginning and start all over again.