DISCLAIMER: I simply wanted to post this sketch with a few – a few! – accompanying words and then I unravelled and wrote myself to sleep. Whoops.
I remember when I watched Babe, one of my all time favourites, for the very first time, on a VHS cassette, German „Ein Schweinchen namens Babe“, because Germans needed to be told specifically it was about a little piglet. I mean, tbh, the title might as well suggest porn. Thinking about it, and considering the creativity found in German porn titles (puns after puns and I’m drawn between disgust and being deeply impressed. I love a good pun. I love a good porn, too. Unfortunately, Germany is bad in both fields, but for a good laugh, check out this list) the adjusted title does not exactly rule out porn either… But back to innocent Babe, the brave and heroic shepherd pig with a heart of gold – who nearly fails his Farmer Hoggett in a sheepdog contest. In order to help their common friend and protégée, the shepherd dogs and the sheep they chase around ruthlessly for law and order have to put their differences aside. Last minute, Babe learns the secret password that enables him to communicate with any sheep.
Guess what I did from now on. Of course I knew it was just a movie and all but I tried nonetheless, just in case, you know. Again and again.
Mäh, ihr Schafe, Mäh, ihr Schafe
Bleibet treu eurem Glauben, eurer Rasse, auch im Schlafe
Auch im Schlafe
Mäh, ihr Schafe
Back in my childhood, we had sheep. Three smaller flocks of about 10-20 animals each. Which explains why after all this years I still know it by heart.
Sheep are wonderful beings. Not only are they fluffy (not quite Alpaca but still a solid 7 out of 10 on the fluffometer), they also taste great – yes, we ate them, and I despite us being rather poor, we were certainly spoiled with our meat. It came quite as a shock when I moved out and had to discover how expensive lamb is and that a student’s life and budget didn’t allow for it to be my everyday meat. Still lam(b)enting this great culinary loss I had taken for granted, literally. Sheeps are also great weather
menwools. Whenever it’s raining, they know for a fact if its a short shower – then they will seek shelter – or if its the start of a longer rain period, wenn sich’s einregnet, wie wir so schön sagen in Baden. They know they will have to get out and wet eventually so why bother prolonging it? A woolproof weather forecast, every single time. Impressive, eh? No wonder lifestock are called Nutztiere in German, utility animals.
Our sheep were not just that, though. Some had very distinct personalities. Especially the three rams. Aristoteles, Brutus, and Cicero. The eldest, Aristotle, had a deep dark unfathomable face. He was always calm and observing and radiated so much authority, his flock would follow him blindly. Brutus on the other hand was exactly that: brutal. His favourite pastime was running up and ramming his forehead against the stables and he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to anyone approaching his harem. His forehead was all swollen and rough and red and bulky and he looked like a proper hooligan. A wooligan, hehe. I for my part wouldn’t go near him. I was properly scared. Cicero, though young and cocky, was far less aggressive, playfully testing how far he could go before my Dad and Dolly, our shepherds dog, would put him back in his place. With growing age, he became more philosophical, just like Aristoteles. Telling names, all three of them.
Even though back then I hated it (I did not become an early riser till after adolescence) but today, I am so grateful my Dad made me part-time shepherd every other morning before school to help let the sheep out and feed them. I even got my own little lamb, Mara, that needed to be nursed with a bottle, Whenever Mara heard me coming, there was an excited Baaaaah from the crowd, followed by some shuffling and there she was, running along to greet me, wagging her tail, like a dog. I remember, when I was sick once and couldn’t go see her, I was so upset, my Mum decided to bring her home into our bedroom to pay me a visit. Needless to say, 9-year-old me was delighted. 2-month-old Mara on the other hand was perhaps a little too excited and peed all over my brother’s English book he had left lying around on the floor (for further tipps on how to educate your children to tidy up their stuff, follow me). Practical as she was and unaware of any sense of embarrassment, my Mum wrote a letter to his English teacher, explaining the rather odd circumstances and asking whether it was possible to order a new book. A year later, when I started secondary school I got the same teacher. When he read out my name, he looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said: „So you’re the little sister of Per‘s. How’s your lamb?”
In the end, when my Dad fell ill, with heavy hearts we agreed to give up our flocks. They now live happily ever after with a nomadic shepherd and it’s comforting to imagine that Mara got to see the whole wide world.
Fun fact: As a kid, my favourite place to nap was downstairs in our sort-of-living room with our Swedish stove on a sheepskin right in front of the piano. Sometimes I was so comfortably snuggled up, I refused to leave and would stay there all night. It’s one of my few thoroughly happy childhood memories. Bliss. And I hope, its reflected in my sketch, capturing the sheep’s peaceful dreams.