Spanish Children’s Literature: An Infinite World Created by Imagination

From ballads to allegorical poems

Spanish children’s literature has a long history. Some people think that the earliest folk songs can be traced back to the Middle Ages; It is also believed that the embryonic form of children’s literature appears in several words written by the poet Gonzalo de Belseio, who was the first poet to leave a name in Spanish literature. The Song of Sid, one of the oldest heroic epics in Europe, was first sung around by bards. Although the audience at that time was mainly adults, there were also children among them; And according to the analysis of the researchers from the perspective of the history of children’s literature, under the background of the low cultural level of the common people in the Middle Ages and the simple and naive wisdom of the people, only those simple, vivid and catchy works can be widely spread, and this feature of “Song of Xide” is undoubtedly highly consistent with the characteristics of children’s literature.

Some Renaissance literary works have educational purposes, exhorting the public to maintain faith and develop good habits. Such books have also become children’s reading materials. In Don Juan Manuel’s Count Lucanole and Ramon Liuli’s Animal Collection, there are many contents that can attract children readers. The popular chivalry novels and oral folktales in the 16th century also regarded children as potential audiences. Rodrigo Carlo wrote a lot of vivid and interesting games in his Happy and Funny Days, which were very popular among Spanish children in the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, Lopez de Vega, a master of drama in the golden century, and Louis de Gongola, a poet, have written some exquisite and unique nursery rhymes.

The earliest Spanish children’s literature newspaper, The Children’s Daily, was founded by Don Joseph and Don Bernard Campa Agueres. It was first published in Madrid in 1798, with a total of 24 issues. From the second half of the 17th century to the 18th century, children’s research theory books and literary works in Britain and France were translated and introduced, such as Emil by Rousseau, The Story of Mother Goose by Charles Perot and other works. Influenced by them, the Spanish court and nobles also began to invite writers to write books for children. From this, Thomas de Iliart’s collection of allegorical poems, Collection of Literary Allegories, and Felix Samarnego’s Collection of Moral Allegories were born. They follow the tradition of ancient Greek and Roman fables, take animals as the heroes, and tell stories with moral meanings. The language is fresh and simple, and humorous. For example, Iliaert’s famous fable poem The Donkey Playing the Flute exhorts and guides children with vivid images and easy to understand language, and at the same time, it seems to vaguely touch the laws of artistic creation, The more memorable it is: “… At my place/near a lawn,/a donkey passed by/it was just a coincidence./A piccolo on the lawn/the donkey looked carefully,/the shepherd boy forgot it/it was just a coincidence./It was this donkey/went near to smell the piccolo,/breathed a sigh/it was just a coincidence./The breath blew into the belly of the flute/then came out again,/The flute sounded suddenly/It was just a coincidence./’Oh ‘, the donkey shouted loudly:/’How wonderful I play!/Who dares Say/Donkey is always out of tune! ‘/ It doesn’t follow the rules of art/there are some donkeys/it’s just a coincidence. ”

Peres, the little mouse with baby teeth

In the first half of the 19th century, Spanish romanticism literature inspired people’s imagination of the fairy tale world. Many writers in this period created classic works of children’s literature, such as Fernando Cavallero adapted legends and folk stories into texts suitable for children’s reading and published them in newspapers; Louis Coloma created stories for children, such as “Leisure Readings”, “Trivia” and “Hailuoming”. At the same time, Peres, a famous fictional figure in the Spanish world, was promoted under his account. The story is obviously influenced by European folk literature, and its source is difficult to confirm: when children’s baby teeth fall off, they will put their teeth under the pillow. The task of Peres is to change the teeth into candy, coins or other small gifts while the children are sleeping. However, it is through the works of Louis Coloma that Peres, the little mouse, has become a household name in Spain and the Spanish speaking world of America. In addition, the famous Spanish writers Pedro Antonio de Alarcon, Perez Gardos, Clarin, etc. also have wonderful children’s literature works.

In the 19th century, the influence of the development of European children’s literature on Spain cannot be ignored. Fairy tales compiled and created by German Brothers Grimm, E.T.A. Hoffman and Danish writer Andersen have been translated and introduced one after another. In 1876, Satonino Cayeha founded Cayeha Publishing House in Madrid. The series of picture albums of Cayeha Stories issued by the publishing house adapted a large number of classic works of world children’s literature, such as The Thousand and One Nights, Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, etc., and invited famous illustrators to draw beautiful illustrations to match them. The selling price was low and affordable, and they gained a large number of readers. Their influence was not limited to Spain, but extended to the Spanish speaking world of America, It has played an important role in promoting the popularization of children’s literature in the Spanish speaking world and children’s education.

3 “Pinocchio of Spain” and frank girl Celia

At the beginning of the 20th century, with the development of modern pedagogy, psychology and sociology, children’s literature was regarded as a serious genre with important educational and literary values. Spanish children’s literature has also participated in the creation and development of children’s literature in the world. Many famous writers and poets wrote for children, such as the play “The Dragon Head” by Barre Inkland, “The Prince Who Learned Everything from Books” by Nobel Prize winner Hassett Benavente, and “The Not Bad Doll” by Eduardo Marquina. The most representative writers of children’s literature in this period are Salvador Bartholozzi, Elena Forton and Antonio Robles.

As the artistic director of Cayeha Publishing House, Salvador Bartolozzi has drawn a large number of exquisite illustrations for the series of Cayeha Tales. In 1925, he founded Pinocchio, a children’s weekly magazine, to draw a series of cartoons featuring Pinocchio, a classic image created by Italian writer Kolodi. However, apart from the same name, Pinocchio in Bartolozzi’s works is very different in character and plot, which is original writing. Pinocchio in his works is a puppet with idealistic spirit and adventurous spirit. He also adds a partner to the puppet named Chapet. Chapit and Pinocchio are very different in character. Chapit is conservative and timid, likes to be content with the status quo, but often causes trouble. This pair of funny, humorous and contrasting living treasures, which have the shadow of Don Quixote and Sancho Pansha, the classic images of Spanish literature, became very popular children’s literature images in the Spanish speaking world in the 1920s and 1930s.

Elena Forton’s “Celia” series of novels have been published by Aguilar Publishing House since the 1920s, telling about the daily life and growing experience of a young girl Celia. The writing of the “Celia” series has lasted for more than 30 years. Although the author Fortong has lived in Spain, Argentina and other places, she has always insisted on creating new series of works until her death. Celia, a bold and frank character, has become a landmark image in the history of Spanish children’s literature in the 20th century because of her challenging attitude and modernity.

Antonio Robles was also an important writer in this period. He collaborated with Pinocchio and other magazines, and founded the children’s literature magazine Dog, Mouse and Cat in 1930. He collaborated with Elena Forton, Aristotle Taylor, Ramon Gaya and other writers or illustrators to launch novel and beautiful works. He also introduced the element of absurdity into children’s literature creation, including Three and Doll Islands.

During the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s rule, the development of children’s literature was relatively slow. It was not until the 1940s that Borita Casas created the image of a child, “The Magic Antoinette”, which first appeared in radio programs, was later put on the stage and published as a book. Antonita’s imaginative children’s perspective combines reality and fantasy, bringing warmth and fun to the difficult life after the Spanish Civil War.

4 “Small perspective” to see the big world

In the 1950s and 1960s, Gloria Fortes and Anna Maria Martut, the writers of the “middle generation of the century”, made remarkable contributions to the new development of children’s literature. Gloria Fultes has created a large number of children’s poems such as The Song of Children, and also wrote scripts for children’s dramas and TV programs. Most of her works advocate defending the rights of women and children, eulogizing peace, and supporting environmental protection. Anna Maria Mathut has written such excellent works as Green Grasshopper, Little Crazy Horse, and the Stolen Man of Ulysses. Among them, the Stolen Man of Ulysses won the Lazarus Literature Award in 1965 and was adapted into a film. The hero, Hu Hu, is a gypsy boy who was adopted by three kind-hearted single sisters. He lived in a small town when he was young, and was carefully cared for and taught by the three sisters until his peaceful life was disturbed by an unexpected guest. In the view of Huhu, he was a “stowaway” who took the “big ship” Ulysses he built in the attic, and he himself was the captain of the dream ship. The two established a secret friendship and planned to escape to see the world together. The novel is full of twists and turns and tension. The real life space of children is limited, but the world created by imagination is infinitely vast. Rich imagination, courage to practice and sensitive mind are the keys to open the door of dreams. Although dreams may be frustrated and friendships may be betrayed, those experiences and good memories are still the irreplaceable wealth gained by teenagers in the process of growing up.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Spain’s democracy was improved, its economic situation was also improved, children’s and youth literature was significantly developed, the children’s book industry was expanded, and children’s books began to enter educational institutions such as primary and secondary schools, public libraries and the book market in large quantities. During this period, there were a large number of writers with fruitful results, including the Bataouto written by the fantasy writer Conslo Amiho, the Enigma of Tokeland written by the science fiction writer Joan Manuel Gisbert, the Museum of Dreams, and the Several Children, Three Dogs and Others written by Juan Farias. In addition, the Spanish illustrator industry also developed vigorously in the 1980s, and a group of illustrators with superb skills and international reputation emerged.

From the 1990s to the present, with the change of the social and cultural environment, Spanish children’s literature faced new realities such as the marketization of children’s books, the electronic reading, the increasing diversity of children’s reading interests, and the increasingly complex issues of concern, and faced new opportunities and challenges, showing a trend of diversification. The writers of children’s literature who gained great influence in this period include Alfredo Gomes Selda, Cesar Mayoki, Ilya Barcelona and Elvira Lindo. Elvira Lindo’s representative work is Little Manolin, a four eyed frog. The hero in the book, Little Manolin, is a little boy who lives in Madrid, the capital of Spain. He got the nickname of “four eyed frog” because of wearing a pair of big glasses. The work is narrated in the first person of the child, describing the interesting events in the process of children’s growth, and observing and thinking about the world around them from the child’s “small perspective”. Little Manolin is a chatterbox. He likes to ask why, and sometimes causes some small trouble. He is like a child next door in daily life. He is naughty, naive, real and simple, and makes people feel kind and lovely. The language of the works is full of childlike charm, which is often laughable, at the same time, sensitive and delicate, with irony and social criticism. This series of novels has become a classic work of contemporary Spanish children’s literature, which has been translated into nearly 20 languages, and also into Chinese in 2017, and is loved by many Chinese readers.

Source: Cai Xiaojie



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