If you should waltz over to Hooting Yard, once again, you will see Frank Key doing what we all should have been doing for a long time now – i.e. exploring the fascinating links between a Belgian television programme, ‘ostensibly designed for children’, and the sixteen Revelations Of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich.
According to Key (and I bow to his authority on this case) the programme allowed its creator, Gus van der Vim, ‘to express his frankly hysterical response to the First Divine Revelation in the form of a weird, knockabout, psychedelic, baffling, and occasionally creepy children’s television programme, in which pursuit of a hazelnut is the starting point of each show’.
This reminds me (the show as a whole, not the hazelnut) of the Dutch ‘Van’ series, most particularly Van Eel’s Underwater Transportation – a short novel written, again, ‘ostensibly’ for children, which nevertheless contains more than a handful of complex theological ponderings beyond the comprehension of your average adult.
In reference to a now-famous episode in the book, in which Hari achieves semi-spiritual transportation whilst diving for treasure in an Amsterdam canal, Jinpes Terenk has written: ‘it is impossible, surely, to ignore the palpable parallels between this passage and the various episodes in the holy diaries of St Gregor of Samsat’. In fact, the book is swimming in parallels of this kind, as Van Eel, like Gus van der Vim before him, makes absolutely no attempt to pander to his youthful audience.
You may read the rest of Terenk’s review here.