Fairy god­fa­ther ap­pears

Shaun Mi­callef side­steps into the for­est of fam­ily fic­tion, tak­ing his trade­mark hu­mour with him

The Northern Star - - WEEKEND - BY Letea Ca­van­der

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.


TV DAR­LING: Shaun Mi­callef will also re­turn to Aussie tele­vi­sion screens in an eighth se­ries of Mad As Hell next year. Co­me­dian Shaun Mi­callef has writ­ten a fairy­tale book, Tales from a Tall For­est, and, below, as host of Talkin’ ’Bout Your Gen­er­a­tion...

Tales from a Tall For­est by Shaun Mi­callef, RRP $29.99 is out on Mon­day through Hardie Grant.

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