“There was an old woman who went to bed at night as old women usually do, and in the morning she woke up as old women usually do. But on this particular morning she found herself shrunk to the size of a pepperpot, and old women don’t usually do that. The odd thing was, her name really was Mrs Pepperpot.”
So begins Little Old Mrs Pepperpot by Alf Prøysen (Red Fox, 2000, p. 7). I loved these books when I was a child, but had no idea that they were translated from Norwegian until quite recently, when it was mentioned on Twitter. Looking at it now, though, I can clearly see the Scandinavian influences in the text (in terms of food, mostly) and the original illustrations by Björn Berg. The new editions with illustrations by Hilda Offen (right) play that aspect down slightly, which I find a pity. Some of the stories are also abridged for younger readers. The Red Fox 2000 edition of Mrs Pepperpot Stories does not name the translator, but Mrs Pepperpot’s Christmas and Mrs Pepperpot’s Outing, at least, were translated by M. Helweg.
Mrs Pepperpot’s name in Norwegian is Teskjekjerringa, meaning “the teaspoon lady”, and she has been around since 1959. Because she never knows when one of her shrinking fits will happen, it can cause all kinds of problems. However, it also enables her to speak to the animals and order the sun and wind around, so she has plenty of adventures as a result. She is also very shrewd about getting things done, whatever her size. The stories are very entertaining whether for reading aloud to young children, or for more confident readers to read themselves, and there is a brisk, fairytale quality to the writing.
(I also find myself wondering whether the creators of Grandpa in my Pocket have been influenced by Mrs Pepperpot… Mind you, Grandpa’s shrinking is entirely controlled by the shrinking cap so perhaps not.)
After this little trip down memory lane, I’m feeling quite nostalgic – we really will have to introduce the boys to these stories as soon as possible!