|Hedgehog hi-jinx with Adam Rivers
Erinaceus europaeus Picture credit: Wikimedia, Marek Szczepanek
I am writing to you in a state of grave concern concerning Miss Tiggy-Winkle and her Pro-Erinacean propaganda.
It is becoming increasingly evident that she has started to go beyond her C. of G. approved remit which grants her slight Shakespearean additions and has the potential to seriously threaten large tracts of Fiction, compromising the stability of many old and famous Novels. I fear her first dastardly deed of Fiction Infraction is imminent if not already in progress.
I am now deeply anxious over this hedgehogess's scope and influence within Jurisfiction, and fear that in order to avoid detection or persecution she may have other members of the organisation in her perfectly pressed pocket, however uncomfortable that may be for them - although I'm sure Vernham Deane is of unimpeachable character, there is something about him, in particular, that suggests rather a large prick. Having recently read Dostoevsky's The Idiot - and having had thoroughly enjoyed it, despite obvious foul-play - the evidence is now incontrovertible: She has left Elizabethan/Jacobean drama and has entered the heady and highly influential realms of 19th Century Russian Literature, and is verily fiddling with these great oligarchs of observation. Over a space of only three pages, the word 'hedgehog' appears twenty-five times! It's worth noting that the protagonist is only referred to by his name, Myshkin, once, and even then it is spelt incorrectly. I believe this might be something to do with Ms. -Winkle working her way in from second rate translations. The appearance of the hedgehog is out of synch with the every plot device that has gone before it, and self-evidently it is slightly absurd. Just her style... Believability in irrationality...
Myshkin is a very vulnerable young man, is a sickly sufferer of epilepsy, and is symptomatically naive, overly eagre to please, and is very, very sensitive - it is well documented that the novel was originally going to be named after him, Prince Myshkin, but somehow (hmm!) the title has become a permanent term of abuse to hound him, which can not help his condition. The appearance of an unscripted hedgehog would confuse the borsch out of him, he wouldn't know what to do. I think Miss. Tiggy-Winkle is fully aware of these matters and is using Prince Lev Nickaleovich Myshkin's dear-heartedness to manipulate him and other characters in the novel.
In the extract I have included below as evidence, it is clear that Aglaya Epanchin has just been threatened with a good quilling off page, should she not co-operate, and is being forced to treat the man she is in love with in a way that she would rather not, and indeed, in a way the author did not write her to. It has affected her so much, that she isn't even sure she is in love with him anymore, and wastes a lot of everyone's time faffing about, extending Little Myshk's suffering and boring everyone else. Other characters have also begun to behave oddly throughout, to the point of character assassination, literally: at one point there in an absolutely inexplicable attempt on the Sweet Prince's life by Roghozin in a stair well. Most peculiar. A very amusing character Ferdyshenko disappears only a third of the way in and is replaced by some tediously ethical bore who shares several similarities with one Mr. Jeremy Fisher. And Aglaya's mother, Lizabetha also has a certain absence of common sense familiar in an infamous Puddle Duck. Could there be a terrorist cell in Children's Illustrated Literature, threatening to wipe out the High Brow, or as they see it, High Bore? There are shady practices going on here, be they blackmail, bribery, extortion, or vengeful threats of malnutrition by a mono-diet of bread and milk.
The whole novel appears to be in a condition of slight fracture, Myshkin not being able to believe, see, or do anything about the plot shifting around he ears, with minor characters leaping up, baying for blood, glory, and love that is not rightly theirs. At least young Colia is helping the Prince keep everything in order. But I am convinced that the Boojum of this glorious novel is perilously close, and that there is an unassuming Machiavelli of a hedgehog at the heart of it!!! It certainly couldn't be that feeble pair from The Animals of Farthing Wood, they can't cross a road competently... Yours with trepidation and thick, leather gloves,
Adam Offenstopps Rivers
From Part Four of 'The Idiot' by Fyodor Dostoevsky:
Suddenly, a quarter of an hour after the Prince's departure, Aglaya had rushed out of her room in such a hurry that she had not even wiped her eyes, which were full of tears. She came back because Colia had brought a hedgehog. Everybody came in to see the hedgehog. In answer to their questions Colia explained that the hedgehog was not his, and that he had left another boy, Kostia Lebedeff, waiting for him outside. Kostia was too shy to come in, because he was carrying a hatchet; they had bought the hedgehog and the hatchet from a peasant whom they had met on the road. He had offered to sell them the hedgehog, and they had paid fifty copecks for it; and the hatchet had so taken their fancy that they had made up their minds to buy it of their own accord.
On hearing this, Aglaya urged Colia to sell her the hedgehog; she even called him "dear Colia," in trying to coax him. He refused for a long time, but at last he could hold out no more, and went to fetch Kostia Lebedeff. The latter appeared, carrying his hatchet, and covered with confusion. Then it came out that the hedgehog was not theirs, but the property of a schoolmate, one Petroff, who had given them some money to buy Schlosser's History for him, from another schoolfellow who at that moment was driven to raising money by the sale of his books. Colia and Kostia were about to make this purchase for their friend when chance brought the hedgehog to their notice, and they had succumbed to the temptation of buying it. They were now taking Petroff the hedgehog and hatchet which they had bought with his money, instead of Schiosser's History. But Aglaya so entreated them that at last they consented to sell her the hedgehog. As soon as she had got possession of it, she put it in a wicker basket with Colia's help, and covered it with a napkin. Then she said to Colia:
"Go and take this hedgehog to the Prince from me, and ask him to accept it as a token of my profound respect."
Colia joyfully promised to do the errand, but he demanded explanations.
"What does the hedgehog mean? What is the meaning of such a present?"
Aglaya replied that it was none of his business.
"I am sure that there is some allegory about it," Colia persisted. Aglaya grew angry, and called him "a silly boy."
"If I did not respect all women in your person," replied Colia, "and if my own principles would permit it, I would soon prove to you, that I know how to answer such an insult!"
But, in the end, Colia went off with the hedgehog in great delight, followed by Kostia Lebedeff. Aglaya's annoyance was soon over, and seeing that Colia was swinging the hedgehog's basket violently to and fro, she called out to him from the verandah, as if they had never quarrelled:
"Colia, dear, please take care not to drop him!"
Colia appeared to have no grudge against her, either, for he stopped, and answered most cordially:
"No, I will not drop him! Don't be afraid, Aglaya Ivanovna!"
After which he went on his way. Aglaya burst out laughing and ran up to her room, highly delighted. Her good spirits lasted the whole day. All this filled poor Lizabetha's mind with chaotic confusion. What on earth did it all mean? The most disturbing feature was the hedgehog. What was the symbolic signification of a hedgehog? What did they understand by it? What underlay it? Was it a cryptic message?
Poor General Epanchin "put his foot in it" by answering the above questions in his own way. He said there was no cryptic message at all. As for the hedgehog, it was just a hedgehog, which meant nothing-unless, indeed, it was a pledge of friendship,-the sign of forgetting of offences and so on. At all events, it was a joke, and, of course, a most pardonable and innocent one. We may as well remark that the general had guessed perfectly accurately.
The Prince, returning home from the interview with Aglaya, had sat gloomy and depressed for half an hour. He was almost in despair when Colia arrived with the hedgehog.
Then the sky cleared in a moment. The Prince seemed to arise from the dead; he asked Colia all about it, made him repeat the story over and over again, and laughed and shook hands with the boys in his delight. It seemed clear to the Prince that Aglaya forgave him, and that he might go there again this very evening; and in his eyes that was not only the main thing, but everything in the world.
"What children we are still, Colia!" he cried at last, enthusiastically,-"and how delightful it is that we can be children still!"
"Simply-my dear Prince,-simply she is in love with you,-that's the whole of the secret!" replied Colia, with authority.
The Prince blushed, but this time he said nothing. Colia burst out laughing and clapped his hands. A minute later the Prince laughed too, and from this moment until the evening he looked at his watch every other minute to see how much time he had to wait before evening came...
... Mushkin himself came in very timidly. He seemed to feel his way, and looked in each person's eyes in a questioning way,-for Aglaya was absent, which fact alarmed him at once ... ... At this moment in marched Aglaya, as calm and collected as could be. She gave the Prince a ceremonious bow and solemnly took up a prominent position near the big round table. She looked at the Prince questioningly.
All present realized that the moment for the settlement of perplexities had arrived.
"Did you get my hedgehog?" she inquired, firmly and almost angrily.
"Yes, I got it," said the Prince, blushing.
"Tell us now, at once, what you made of the present? I must have you answer this question for mother's sake; she needs pacifying, and so do all the rest of the family!"
"Look here, Aglaya-" began the general.
"This-this is going beyond all limits!" said Lizabetha Prokofievna, suddenly alarmed.
"It is not in the least beyond all limits, mamma!" said her daughter, firmly. "I sent the Prince a hedgehog this morning, and I wish to hear his opinion of it. Go on, Prince."
"What-what sort of opinion, Aglaya Ivanovna?"
"About the hedgehog."
"That is-I suppose you wish to know how I received the hedgehog, Aglaya Ivanovna,-or, I should say, how I regarded your sending him to me? In that case, I may tell you-in a word-that I-in fact-"
He paused, breathless.
"Come-you haven't told us much!" said Aglaya, after waiting some five seconds. "Very well, I am ready to drop the hedgehog, if you like; but I am anxious to be able to clear up this accumulation of misunderstandings. Allow me to ask you, Prince,-I wish to hear from you, personally-are you making me an offer, or not?"...