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II. Hobo Lobo of Hamelin

The second piece I have decided to write about is the “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”. A little disclaimer first: I was not able to listen to the music when I first encountered the piece. So, this is a feedback on the visuals, the story and it’s general workings – I will try to read it with the music before class if I can.

The general aesthetic of this piece is amazing. When you first open the site, it just looks like a pretty picture-book-like illustration, but when you interact with it, it turns out to be so much more than that. The author has cleverly constructed a multi-layered piece that makes use of the new possibilities of digital art while still playing on the conventions of classic literature. It is easy to navigate and because it works from left to right, it feels like reading a picture book. Also, the effect of cut-out paper seems to be a vital part of the visuals. What struck me was the colour scheme: the contrasts were so well set and changed according to the narrative. This was not just pretty, but changed the whole experience of the story and added a new way of perceiving the narratological structure. For example, when the green changes into red, the connotation of violence and blood is obvious. And on page 5, the two colours are combined to mark the point where the Lobo’s attitude towards the mayor changes and he decides to take revenge. The colours subconciously influence the way we read the story and the way in which we generate meaning.

The most interesting question to me was: why is it so witty and funny? I think the author achieves this through two things. First, it is a clever mix between old and new. The story is so well-known that it serves as common ground for the reader and the author so that puns and references work without having to establish them first within the story.  Interestingly, it still works as a fairy tale – it’s still “once upon a time” and probably “in a land far away”, even though people have TVs, newspapers and IKEA furniture. However, like “Redridinghood”, it calls the clear black-and-white distinction between good and evil into question that traditional fairy tales rely on. This leads me to the second point: it has a very clear political message. The “progressive Fascist-Calvinist coalition” that is in power turns out to be a dictatorship that has a part of it’s population assassinated. However, this is not really surprising – after all, the mayor is literally a Dick Mayor. This piece is a wonderful and clever tale about the importance of democracy, especially in a time where right-wing populism is becoming increasingly popular.

I. RedRidinghood

RedRidinghood by Donna Leish seemed like a good choice for my first analysis of electronic literature. This is mainly due to one reason: had I encountered this piece in another context, I would probably have regarded it as anything but “literature”.

This modern retelling of the popular fairy tale leads the reader through a video-game-like adventure that offers different ways for the story to unfold. What surprised me was that it felt more like an interactive video than a text. The visuals are reminiscent of comic books and the whole story is set to a variety of upbeat songs – however, the feeling the story leaves you with is anything but “jazzy”. RedRidinghood is a story of violence, about being devoured by your own mind and about passivity and helplessness. The motifs of the well-known fairy tale are cleverly used here: the hood becomes a hoodie, the mother is a vamp-like figure with doubtful intentions and the wolf becomes a very human predator.

Now, this is by no means a new approach to the story. Even in one of the most well-known versions of the tale from the 17th century, Charles Perrault writes “[…] there are real wolves, with hairy pelts and enormous teeth; but also wolves who seem perfectly charming, sweet-natured and obliging, who pursue young girls in the street and pay them the most flattering attentions. Unfortunately, these smooth-tongued, smooth-pelted wolves are the most dangerous beasts of all.” (Carter, Angela, ed. Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Other Classic Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault. New York: Penguin Books, 2008 p. 3)

So, the interpretation of the characters is not the most suprising element of the story. What makes this piece unique, though, is how it conveys the feelings of the protagonist to the reader. In older fairy-tale versions, the characters are flat and just serve to illustrate the obvious moral of the story. In this case, however, we can easily identify with the protagonist and her unfortunate situation. Like Little Red Riding Hood, we are stuck between a variety of choices that all seem unappealing, and like her, we feel lost, trapped and hopeless. This is most obvious at the end of the story. When the protagonist sits on her rapist’s bed and has a gun to her head, we can not do anything to change her fate either and like her, we just have to await the end of her story. This aspect could be seen as a feminist comment on fairy tales and the passivity of the female characters we usually encounter there.

The part of the story that impressed me the most was the diary. I stumbled upon it by accident, clicking random parts of the picture. However, even though it is not the most obvious part of the text, I would think it is almost the most important one. Here, we encounter the deepest and darkest thoughts of the girl and can follow her on her journey – she falls in love with the man who then turns out to be her worst fear. This is depicted in several poems and drawings that go from upbeat to simply disturbing. The “I” and the “You” are not always clear, the voice of predator, victim and reader are shifting, as can be seen here.

I was amazed at how much the form of the text corresponds with the content. The story literally works on many levels, simultaneously playing in different tabs. The dreams, the diary and the main story work like an assembled collage, the motif of an abusive relationship working like a thread through the text. Using a well-known fairy tale as a base for this experimental form seems like a good choice – the reader already has expectations towards the story and is surprised even more once the tale shows its true and admittedly quite dark nature. This text was a good introduction to more image-based texts, showing how words, images and animation can work together to create a multidimensional story.