Fairy godfather appears
Shaun Micallef sidesteps into the forest of family fiction, taking his trademark humour with him
LEFT in a room for 24 hours with all his personal belongings taken away and no writing materials, Shaun Micallef concocted a story about a monkey that wanted to be a master of the universe.
The comedian was filming scenes for his documentary on spirituality but what also came of the isolation room was a book of fairytales, Micallef-style.
Tales from a Tall Forest focuses on some of the more obscure or peripheral characters of popular fairytales.
Micallef considered the builders who were approached by the witch to build the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel or a royal woodsman that got lumped with killing Snow White because the royal huntsman called in sick.
“I thought maybe if I could get all these peripheral characters together in one place, I could link all the stories together,” he said.
The comedian, who will return to Aussie television screens as the host of a reincarnation of Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation on Channel 9 next year, said he did not write the book with children in mind.
“I don’t know how to write to a particular audience, I just write and hope people get one or two or half a level out of it,” he said.
“I know the stories I read when I was very young, there was no sort of pandering to my age group. It was just sort of if you understand this you understand it and if you don’t go and ask an adult.”
Although the odd reference to basic economic theories or the bubonic plague may go over some younger readers’ heads, the book still provided enough interesting and at times mean-spirited characters to keep them entertained. Micallef, 55, hoped reading the tale became a family activity. “It’s probably going to be read by adults to children and I guess by a kid who is not too scared to come across a word they don’t understand and go and ask mum and dad, which is what I used to do,” he said.
“I like the fact the family might get involved in the experience of the book.
“Without sounding too pretentious, the stories I’ve tried to tell are hopefully about something real, about greed or pride.”
When asked what continued to surprise him most about the human condition, Micallef said he was not surprised when he was disappointed by a person’s inhumanity.
“But you don’t want to get cynical in life,” he said.
“So I am sort of pleasantly surprised and it’s usually children who supply the promise of hope. Just a small bit of kindness that you might see. Our natural instinct is to be quite nurturing and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a child in the fortunate world we live in, in Australia, who wouldn’t be naturally kind and nurturing.
“I think they’re born with that. I think it might get driven out of people as they get older or as cynicism creeps in.”
He said the millennial generation gave him great hope. “My own children are 19, 17 and 15 so of course any kindness or goodness or promise they show I take as a reflection of myself, rather selfishly, I put it down to me,” Micallef said with a chuckle.
“But it is there in a lot of others (their age) as well.
“It might come from having a larger canvas, maybe, than my generation had.
“I mean, they’re not so self-obsessed and they get to see a greater portion of the world than certainly I did.”
Micallef grew up in Adelaide and said in his youth the world was a smaller and more boring place so he escaped into a universe of films and his own imagination.
“I think the world is not such an inaccessible place for my children,” he said.
“I don’t think my children think twice about working overseas or travelling.
“These things I wouldn’t have even considered.
“I think instinctively they are less threatened by the size of the world and maybe know a little more about it and have an appreciation of how fragile it is.”
Micallef’s favourite fairytale remains Jack and the Beanstalk. He said he still thought of the story.
“I remember thinking the guy who gave the magic beans away for the cow is the real victim of the story,” Micallef said.
“He’s got these great beans and imagine his mother when he arrives home and says ‘look, I’ve got this cow’. It’s the short end of the deal, I think.”
I know the stories I read when I was very young, there was no sort of pandering to my age group.
Comedian Shaun Micallef has written a fairytale book, Tales from a Tall Forest, and, below, as host of Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation on Channel 10. Channel 9 confirmed on Wednesday a reincarnation of the show would air next year.
Tales from a Tall Forest by Shaun Micallef, RRP $29.99 is out on Monday through Hardie Grant.