Sunday, May 8, 2016


The Guardian's Sophia Martelli said of Frank Wedekind's Mine-Haha, or On the Bodily Education of Young Girls: "This slim volume is fresh, perverse and disconcerting."

Here's part of Amazon's summary
[...] Mine-Haha describes a unique boarding institution for girls—part idyllic refuge, part prison—where pupils are trained only in the physical arts of movement, dance, and music, before issuing them into an adult world for which they have (unwittingly) been prepared.
It states in the novella's introduction that Wedekind recorded in his diary that when he visited London's Middlesex Music Hall in 1894 he saw "a dancing girl, no more than a child" appear "in a 'brief white princess frock, with bare legs, short white socks and little shoes gilded morocco leather', revealing her 'white lace knickers up to the waist'." And that "[w]hen she came off stage there was a 'bawling, screeching and whistling as in a zoo when meat appears in front of the cages'."

In the novella's text, the nymphets habitually practice walking on their hands during their theater performances of the lustful and brutal The Gnat Prince, which "[..] is an erotic fantasy, since, provided the girls are in dresses or skirts [...] it promises the viewer, or voyeur, a sight of the forbidden as gravity takes its course."

Hidalla, the novella's narrator, played one of five peasants in the play. The peasant's customs, which were put on after the girls undressed, "were very simple, short skirt, blue or red, which stretched from the waist to the knee." 

When the peasants weren't walking around the stage on their hands, while their pigtails dragged as the audience leered at their budding bottom-grass and hillocks, Hidalla narrated, "During the second act we peasants had nothing to do but lie on the steps and display our naked upper bodies and calves." 

In terms of the brutality in The Gnat Prince, the youngest girl had to receive "good beating". One could hear the full house's "cheering anticipation" as the scene began. After the lashing, the nymphet was "crowned queen and carried around in the most precious raiments on a golden throne."

Lastly, the girls, who ranged in ages from 7 to 13, were forced to suppress their lesbian urges, which is why their housekeepers were banned from leaving the walled residence. "When she was here as a child, she went to another girl. That's why she's still here." 

Mine-Haha isn't Wedekind's only play. His first major play was Spring Awakening [German: Frühlings Erwachen] (1891). And Spring Awakening, the bawdy teen Broadway play, is based on Wedekind's play. 

John Irvin's The Fine Art of Love (2005) was inspired by Mine-Haha. And Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence (2004) is based on the novella.

Unsurprisingly, Wedekind was an (acting) ephebophile. According to his Diary of an Erotic Life, Wedenkind used to "pick up" Parisian women "usually cocottes" but "occasionally juveniles, to whom he was strongly attracted." And in 1906, he married Tilly Newes, an Austrian actress, who was twenty-two years his junior. 

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