Ever since I released The Overlord Unicorned Squirrels From Mars in 2018 there have been a lot of questions.
The most frequently asked is ‘why did you write the Unicorned Squirrels?’
Clearly such a question is looking for me to tell of the literary influences which led me to tell the intergalactic rodent tale.
Until recently I’ve resisted the desire to answer such a question. However, lately I don’t think I’ve been getting enough attention and in any event there are rumours circulating that I wrote Unicorned Squirrels as a joke!
So, please, let me take you on the creative journey that gave birth to everyone’s favourite unicorned rodents.
The genesis of the story begun when I was at university studying English Literature.
It was late at night and I was alone in the library. Well, not really alone but to be honest the return I was getting for the effort that a member of the rugby team was putting in I may well have been.
It was during Jack’s laboured thrusts that I begun to pay particular notice to the old dusty books on the shelf. This was in part due to boredom but mainly because of the trajectory that Jack’s enthusiasm had put me on.
There was one book that caught me eye (literally) and so fearing this late night library liaison may end in me losing my sight I removed the book.
My fingers slid over the dark cloth board, the cracks and bumps crying out with years of neglect. The marker ribbon frayed and fragile, barely serving its purpose.
The title, which once proudly stood out in gold embossed lettering now meekly sunk into the dark cloth board.
With a little help from Jack I got closer so I could make out the title
‘Recipes & Poetry Almanac’
The idea behind this publication was to combine cookery and poetry. A detailed recipe would be followed by a number of poems throughout the ages. The length of time it would take you to read the poems is how long you needed to wait for whatever it was you were making to finish cooking.
The idea never really caught on and the series was cancelled after just one volume and never reprinted. It didn’t help that it was printed on highly flammable paper and was cited to be to blame for a number of kitchen fires.
Had I chosen to have my illicit affair with Jack in the canteen then I may have been tempted to rustle up a Lemon Drizzle Cake but instead I decided to read some of the poems.
I gave a cursory glance back at Jack and studying his reddening expression in the gloom of the library I returned to the book to find a poem that would take about a minute or so to read.
I thumbed through the brittle pages and worried that the book would disintegrate I stopped on one particular poem
‘Oh, Look It’s a Squirrel’ by Von Klausenhausen
I never heard of this particular writer before and there is very little information about him on the internet.
What I have subsequently been able to find out is that he was born in 1265 and was very much the contemporary to Dante; indeed they were childhood friends. Hardly any contemporaneous documentation remains but what does gives us a fascinating insight into the relationship between the two.
Klausenhausen’s cheery nature was in complete juxtaposition to Dante’s moodiness. Old school reports refer to Dante as needing ‘to lighten up a bit’ whereas Klausenhausen was described as a ‘optimistic dreamer’.
Their friendship was rather tempestuous and in a postcard Klausenhausen sent to his mother on a school trip he described the tension between them
‘Dante hat mein Käsesandwich gestohlen’ (Dante stole my cheese sandwich).
Sadly, Klausenhausen was to experience tragedy when his father died.
Klausenhausen was raised in a relatively poor household, the only income came from whatever his Father won from wrestling naked at the local tavern.
Strauss Klausenhausen was quite the fighter and well respected. His skills earned him the opportunity to wrestle in Canada in a prestigious tournament .
However, unfortunately for Strauss, an error in translation meant rather than wrestling bare he was in fact going to be wrestle a bear.
A young Klausenhausen had to watch in horror as his father was mauled to death. The family returned home distraught and penniless.
His Mother, in her grief, locked herself in her room and only emerged a few years later to announce she had married the wardrobe.
Klausenhausen’s friendship with Dante had become more strained. The final straw was when Dante asked Klausenhausen to read the first draft of The Divine Comedy. He told Dante that ‘It was too long, made little sense and those studying literature in years to come will despise Dante for even writing such a monotonous prose. Plus it wasn’t even funny.’
Dante did not take the criticism well and declared he no longer wished to be friends and challenged Klausenhausen to write something better.
And so this once great friendship was now reduced to petty rivalry as Klausenhausen set about writing a challenge to Dante.
Oh, Look It’s A Squirrel was to be the first part of an epic narrative poem that Klausenhausen hoped would make Dante ‘shut his moody face’.
The original German title was ‘Oh, Scheiße, es ist ein Eichhörnchen’ which directly translated to English read ‘Oh shit, it’s a Squirrel’.
The poem begins with a man about to start out on a lonely camping trip. Before he steps into the woods he meets a squirrel who is initially friendly. However, as they travel further into the forest, the mood of the squirrel darkens.
The opening line to each verse would begin with ‘Oh, squirrel why..’ The variations that followed represented the changing malevolent mood of the squirrel.
There are clear similarities with Dante’s journey into hell but Klausenhausen brought to his prose his life experiences;
From his cheery childhood optimism
Oh, Squirrel why do you love me so
To his initial friendship with Dante
Oh, Squirrel why do you friend me so
To his falling out with Dante
Oh, Squirrel why do you steal my cheese sandwich so
And finally to the resentment he held to all woodland creatures due to the bear tearing of his Father’s arms
Oh, Squirrel why do you murder me so….you bastard
Sadly Klausenhausen never got to finish the full poem. Following completion of ‘Oh, Look It’s A Squirrel’ he died in a tragic accident whilst helping his Stepfather wardrobe down the stairs.
In her grief of seeing her only son’s crushed body underneath her second husband she burnt her wooden betrothed and spent the remaining years of her life living in sin with a ukulele.
After reading Klausenhausen’s poem I felt numb (although it could have been more to do with how long I had been bent over….or a mild concussion).
I closed the delicate book and turned around just in time to let Jack know that wiping his cock on Tolstoy was not good form.
I had a restless sleep that night, the thoughts of the dark journey into the depths of the forest with just a squirrel for company played heavily on my mind.
The following morning I returned to the library hoping to read Klausenhausen’s work again, this time without the distractions of Jack’s groans.
However, when I arrived, the book was gone. I would have searched for it but there was a fire in the canteen and so we were told to leave.
For years I have searched for this poem that touched me deeper than Jack managed to. Sadly, my search has been unsuccessful.
It seems a shame that Klausenhausen is not spoken of in literary circles as Dante is.
Yet when I was thinking of the perfect antagonist for my story deep in my subconscious he spoke to me.