Monday 2 April 2007

Gaspar und Gretchen


A new form of entertainment has reached Altdorf; a hand puppet or marionette theatre featuring the characters of Gaspar and his wife Gretchen as well as a menagerie of supporting figures. I believe that it traces its origins back to Tilea, although the name Gaspar surely originates from Kislev. For sure, the characters are as colourful as any Tilean and they dress and behave just as outrageously. My theory is that the show reached Kislev before Altdorf, and that is why the main character is called Gaspar. There some who claim that the puppets and the story they play out is a creation of Chaos, a lure to gain access to the minds of the children ... and if what I have observed at the secret screenings is true, the adults as well. For each and every person who attends this Gaspar und Gretchen puppet show is enthralled by the spectacle. Given a theory of involvement by the powers of Chaos, the show might have migrated from the Chaos Wastes to Kislev and then further into the Empire and down to Tilea.

The theatre is performed by a "Professor" sitting in a box or a booth equipped with a small stage. He uses puppets or marionettes and the play itself is a string of short episodes each depicting an interaction between two of the characters of the cast. Most often it is the rascal Gaspar together with one of his numerous victims that grace the stage. Gaspar is a symbol of The Great Jester of Old World folklore, and accordingly dresses as a jester in a colourful suit with bells on his hat. He has an enormous hooked nose that curves so as to almost meet his chin. It is almost a beak more than a nose. The puppet is armed with a stick as large as he himself is tall, and he finds great pleasure in using this to rain violence on the other characters of the play. His voice is a squawk, a distinctive and grating noise. This effect is achieved by the Professor using a contraption of weed and wood in his mouth while speaking.

Gaspar und Gretchen

The story varies somewhat between Professors, but the recurring theme is the same; Gaspar behaving totally irresponsible, fighting his wife Gretchen and dealing with their baby in the most outrageous ways imaginable. The cast also consists of a goblin, a hangman, a City Watchman and a powerful Chaos demon named Gideon. Another constant is Gaspar's punchline "That's the way to do it"! Gaspar triumphs in a series of encounters with the law but also with the forces of Chaos. The Goblin is a humorous aside, but the final scene is a showdown between Gaspar and Gideon, where the jester ultimately triumphs, exclaiming "Huzzah! Huzzah! I've killed the Demon"! Everything is shockingly humorous and performed with great comedic impact, intended to provoke laughter and shocked amusement.

Gaspar und Gideon

So is this Chaos trying to win another foothold in our beleaguered capital? If so it can only be Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways, who advocates such anarchy and wanton behaviour as that displayed by the puppets. And who is The Great Jester if not Tzeentch himself? But then again at the end of the play Gaspar defeats Gideon, a powerful Chaos Demon so maybe this is a show about how to defeat Chaos with Chaos. An intriguing tale for sure. I have no doubt that the Witch Hunters will try to put a stop to the puppet shows by burning every booth and Professor they find. They wait only for our Emperor to sign the suggested law banning these spectacles from performing in the Empire. But given the preponderance of nobles and artistocrats at the shows I have attended, I'm sure that Gaspar is safe for now. I'm not so sure that we are.

Adolphus Altdorfer
Nachexen 25, 2522

Of course, Gaspar und Gretchen is based on the adventures of Punch and Judy. The illustrations are by caracturist George Cruickshank and appeared in The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy in 1828.

The possibilities for adventures involving Gaspar und Gretchen are endless. Is the show a conspiracy? Or is it harmless entertainment? Does it hide something sinister and forbidding, or is it a warning to The Empire about the coming of Chaos? And who are the Professors and where do they come from? And last but not least, what if the characters would encounter Gaspar und Gretchen in real life? The horror! The horror!


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