HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME: CHILDREN’S TV ON-THE-CHEAP!
TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: Paulus the Woodgnome (1967-1968) Dutch name: Paulus de boskabouter.
GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Jan van Oort, the creator of Paulus the Woodgnome and all puppets and sets used in each gripping 10-minute episode of the late-1960s show. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Julian Bulieau and other “writers and manipulators.”
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: When I was a very little boy, growing-up in the ominous woodlands of Northern New York near the border of Quebec, I could relate to some of the ear-curlingly bad kids’ shows that filtered to us through rickety Canadian Broadcasting Corporation airwaves. It required the tremulous bleatings of a prepubescent Celine Dion (who dwelled in the nearby woods, too) or the powers of a seemingly lobotomized woodgnome to pierce the grainy static that loomed like a Bumpkin Berlin Wall separating Canadian and American entertainment. The woodgnome was a puppet named “Paulus” and I have since learned that Paulus was actually the product of Dutch minds — perhaps the kinds of minds sequestered in Amsterdam’s smokiest red-light “art salon” during the wild & wooly 1960s. Who can say? Paulus didn’t look like what a gnome ought to look like, to my thinking. Instead, he looked like an old local man who’d wandered into the forest due to severe bouts of dementia and/or familial neglect. This scenario was entirely plausible where I came from. On camera, Paulus spoke with the sort of indecipherable mumble one hears when really sleepy (and possibly starving) Canadian actors attempt to overdub pointless Dutch drivel. Paulus hallucinated various friends for himself in the forest; like him, they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. They also had questionable names that ought not to have appeared in kids’ programs, names like “Cracker” and “Snatch.” I used to wonder if something significant had been irrevocably lost in the translation from Dutch to English (UK) to French and then back to English.
There was a witch in the mix, of course — a witch who looked and sounded like my best friend’s perpetually drunken, foul-mouthed grandmother. His granny used to sit on a front porch, pull her frazzled black hair right out of her head, wad-it-up into spitballs, and throw it at passing children as she cackled in Polish or something Eastern European. She also used to chew on an old black shoe. Well, she would gum the shoe, seeing as she lacked teeth. Never the less, she was the doppelganger of the Paulus-show witch and a rather difficult woman to forget. Especially on nights when the moon was full and tree limbs were scraping against your bedroom window only a block away from her house. Anyway, there never seems to have been a plot on the Paulus show. No “imparting of childlike values” appears to have been involved (remember, the Dutch concocted this) and the program’s “special-effects team” pushed cardboard, string, and styrofoam balls to new, ever more dizzying heights of amateurism, for the time period. Frankly, every puppet looked as if it were suffering from a severe case of the DTs, so I can scarcely imagine the humans actually involved with putting this mess together on a regular basis. I was mesmerized, however. Glued. Didn’t care that the Paulus show only had a budget of maybe 25 guilders and one loaf of bread-per-episode. I was particularly enthralled when the Paulus Theme-Song heralded the beginning of the beloved spectacle, which was already a decade into reruns by the time I was old enough to even watch it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this theme song was clearly warbled by a group of children that had been force-fed dangerous amounts of cherry-flavored cough medicine and then probably locked in some frigid Toronto basement-studio. I would have sung for Paulus the Woodgnome while chained to a dilapidated radiator. But then again, I was only five.
DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Cracker, did you know that, uh, a unicorn’s horn, uh, is more valuable than, uh, gold or diamonds?” — Eucalypta the witch
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Apparently the Dutch have been producing a new line of Paulus-themed comic books since 2002. I’d trade a whole pack of stroopwafels to have a gander at just one of those classics.
EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Behold Badness Par Excellence: the only surviving episode of Paulus the Woodgnome, CBC version, complete with the screamingly weird Zombie-Children Theme Song. See for yourself that I speak the truth.
One witty 2,800 year-old warlock. A storm that hurls him to earth, powerless. A goddess who wants his face. REMOVED.
A deliciously twisted magical adventure is launched. Use any of the Rowan Blaize book icons on the upper-right to learn more or buy with an enchanted click at Amazon (Kindle or paperback).