Book #193: Duck, Death and the Tulip

duck death and the tulip -- coverThis weird and slightly disturbing little story comes out of Germany, from 2007. The first American edition was published in 2011 by Gecko Press, a publishing house known for their “curiously good books.”

I don’t know what to make of this book, and I’m not smart enough to write a profound literary commentary about how this book is about the existence of good and evil in all mankind or touches upon the universality of the human condition. It’s a strange story about a duck who, for a while, has been having a “feeling.”  He turns around and asks the creature behind him, “Who are you? What are you up to, creeping along behind me?”

“Good,” Death says.  “You finally noticed me.  I am death.”

The two have a conversation about whether Death was going to cause Duck’s demise, and Death explains that life takes care of that part. Like the coughs and the colds and Fox.  Which gives Duck goosebumps, of course.

Duck offers to take Death down to the pond, where they play, although Death doesn’t really look like he is having much fun. He seems cold, so Duck offers to warm him.

duck death and the tulip -- warming death

Duck and Death talk about what happens after you die, whether a duck would end up an angel on a cloud or roasting deep in the earth. Death is vague about either of these possibilities. They decide to climb a tree.

They could see the pond far below.
There it lay. So still. And so lonely.
“That’s what it will be like when I’m dead,” Duck thought.
“The pond alone, without me.”

They talk some more. Then snowflakes fall and Duck says she’s cold.  Death looks at her.  She’s not breathing.

duck death and the tulip -- dead duck


He sends her on her way down the river.

duck death and the tulip

And that’s sort of the end of it. The text reads:

When she  was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.
But that’s life,” thought Death.

I think there is something endearing and lovely about the personification of Death here (despite, or perhaps due to, his big skull head) as well as the way the topic is handled in the story. You’ll have to decide if your child is ready for a story like this (my son has been asking questions about death since he was four), but if he or she is interested, I don’t think this would be a bad way to talk about the subject.  These images are powerful and moving, and honest.  ABZ

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