10.25.2012

Een Hart van Suiker - A Heart of Sugar




Kinderkwelder is a strange little village in Holland...
Legend has it that it got it's name because the three children of Count van Wrangegaai, who inherited it after their father's death, fought terribly with each other.
None of them wanted it, and after many horrible fights the youngest, a girl named Ada, was forced to take ownership after being beaten by her brothers.

Things are not what they should be.
Blank, mindless children called 'Orphans' wander the streets, never bothering with anyone.
And take the candy store for example. As long as anyone can remember, the candy has been sold to children by the creepy widow Van Vleuten.
Her face looks like a shriveled up apple and she always wears the same hat.
Parents tell their misbehaving offspring that she chops up naughty little children and makes her candy out of them.
Of course, that's just a tale to get them to behave and no one believes it.
Generations and generations have bought their candy at her store and they still do.
And the one thing all kids want is her specialty: sugar heart.
She doesn't always sell it, but when she does...

A little boy, Ben Advisée, finds out what this sugar heart is made of after secretly following one of his classmates trying to get a piece before everyone else.
He is sworn to secrecy by a scar.
Oh, how he wishes he never saw anything.

At school, things aren't much better.
With each class the teachers get worse; from Miss Sweers*, who rubs her wart with a cream made with stewed children's hair, to mister Sprokkreeft* who looks like a highwayman with hands like claws.
Then there's the head master, the worst of them all, master Havinga*, who teaches the sixth years.
No one knows what goes on in his class, but his students are pallid and quiet.
Ben could swear he sometimes hears noises from their class, as if brains were boiling over.
Ben's teacher, mister Reig, seems a bit of an odd duck, almost nice. 

*These names are plays on the Dutch words for ulcer and lobster, zweer and kreeft, Havinga's name will be discussed later


One day, he overhears a conversation between Reig and Havinga. Reig is being too nice to his class, he needs to firm up.
Soon after, Reig takes ill and Ben's class is taken over by Havinga.
When the students can't do their schoolwork correctly Havinga has a terrible tirade and scares them witless.

Ben receives detention.

When walking through the school to report for his punishment, he again overhears Reig and Havinga and secretly follows them up to the school's attic, where the theater is.
The room is filled up with glass bells that contain shiny blue grains.
It smells an awful lot the classrooms...
He sees his teacher's face buried into a funnel that's connected to the bells and hears Havinga explain that he squeezed out 3 full bottles of fear out of Ben's class.
He tells Reig that he needs to be more careful not to stay in the wrong body.
He needs to be more strict with his class, so they can suck more out of the students, and not to forget that there is Ada to think about...
Ben doesn't know what to think of it and becomes very afraid.
Then, as his teacher takes deep breaths from the funnel, he starts to change.
After seeing the eyes on stalks, spikes, needle teeth and tentacles, Ben runs away...

Ben reaches his home and becomes very ill, barely conscious through his fever pitch dreams.
When he finally wakes up his mother tells him they are moving to a town far away from Kinderkwelder because of his father's work.
So, it would seem he drives away from the terrible claws of Kinderkwelder unscathed...

Years pass by and Ben happily grows up, forgets about his old village and takes a job as a representative in children's literature.

Fate has it that his boss wants him to work and live in a new area.
Kinderkwelder.
His return isn't very eventful, although his grown up mind continuously has to calm down his inner child, who trembles at the thought of being near the horrors of his childhood.
During his stay he has weird dreams and meets the young boy from next door, Camiel.
He tells his inner child that there is nothing to fear and that the widow and teachers are probably long gone, even though he finds out that Havinga is still the head teacher as he has been generations before...
He then meets an old sailor, Ger Haaiebuik (Ger Sharkbelly), who has been in Kinderkwelder for as long as Ben can remember.
When Ben notices that one of his former classmate doesn't remember him at all and looks as though she's aged twice as much, Ger seems to know more but refuses to tell him anything, saying he needs to find out on his own.

Ben goes out to investigate and discovers that all of the headmasters of his old school were born in Indonesia and have names that remind him of birds of prey (Havinga and master Reig being plays on the words havik and gier, hawk and vulture in English).
He comes to the conclusion that Havinga and the other headmasters are all one and the same person.
And when he goes to research the widow, he can't find any birth certificate.
The candy store however, was bought by Ada Wrangegaai, known as Van Vleuten...

When Ben confronts Ger the sailor tells him of his own childhood.
He escaped Havinga by boarding on a ship when he was eleven and sailed around the world.
In Indonesia, he heard stories about a monster called a Tsjap Tjaj (Monster of a Thousand Bites), that disguises itself as a human and preys on children, because they are slow and tastier than adults.
It slowly sucks the youth out of its victims so it can forever stay young.
The monsters boarded the Dutch ships and came to the Netherlands, where even the smallest township has a school, with plenty of children that willingly come to be taught.

Ben later tells Camiel about the teachers and warns him, but is unable to talk about the widow and the sugar heart due to the scar he received in his youth.
He is determined to stop Havinga and plans to invade the school with Ger, having trouble convincing Camiel to stay home.
During the break in Camiel shows up anyway and they break the glass bells that contain the monsters food, narrowly escaping.

The day after Ger is missing and Camiel comes to tell Ben that Havinga is sick, but that the annual 'school trip' for the sixth grade, led by him, is still on.
During this quest, one of the students apparently goes missing after being abducted by cannibals, and has to be found by his or her fellow classmates.

Ben decides to follow Havinga through the marshes when Camiel tells him a girl is missing, coming upon eerier and eerier notes from Havinga to his class as he progresses on the trip.
He comes upon the headmaster, sitting by a fire and discovers that the annual quest serves as a cover up.
Every year, the monster has to shed its skin (which looks like human clothing) which it burns on the fire.
After it's done it needs a boost of energy to recover, for which a frightened class searching for their friend is perfect.
During the confrontation Ben picks up a thermos lying on the ground, and means to throw it at Havinga but misses.
It falls into the fire and bursts open, releasing the dark red liquid inside...
Before the monster can attack, it's shot down by Ger and burns down on his own campfire.

The sixth graders eventually find a note that reads 'Too late'.

Ben wakes up in his rented house, with Ger and Camiel.
Camiel has won a bet and has brought three slices of sugar heart from the candy store to share with Ger and Ben.
The other two don't notice Ben's horror, being the only one who realizes what (or better yet, who) they are really eating.
He takes Ger's shotgun, goes out and waits until all the children have gone from the candy store.
When he goes in, the widow appears and asks what he wishes, to which Ben replies "I've come to settle the bill" and shoots at the widow.
Thinking he has destroyed the last monster in Kinderkwelder, he goes home and tells Ger about her.
That long ago, after he had followed his classmate to the candy store, he snuck around the back and heard the widow and Havinga talking about who would take the last sip of blood, and that they had been in cahoots.
However, when he wants to continue his story his scar becomes red hot and someone knocks on the attic window.
The widow Van Vleuten enchants Ger to be completely still and has Ben under her control.
He sees a small round hole in her chin, confirming that he did shoot her.
She tells him that he shouldn't think so lightly of her as he did of Havinga; no one can ever defeat her.
She is Ada, dame of Wrangegaai and the heir of Kinderkwelder.
She shows Ben some of her memories, of her as a 10-year-old girl renowned for her embroidery, whose childhood was destroyed by her older brothers who forced her to take up ownership of the horrible town of Kinderkwelder.
On the day she inherited the village, she promised her brother that everyone in it would get exactly what she got.
The children in Kinderkwelder lost their hearts and youth,  just like she had.
She renews the curse she has placed on Ben to ensure that he, like so many others, will never speak of her secret.

The day after the widow's visit Ben packs up and leaves, making Ger promise to look after Camiel.
He has been travelling through the Netherlands, searching out schools.
He has found a way to tell the widow's story, being brought to the idea by something Camiel did.
He writes everything down, and hopes that a child finds the book, so that they'll be warned against the many horrors in Holland....


Een Hart van Suiker
Bies van Ede
1998


This is the last drawing of a book, but don't worry, October isn't over yet ;)

2 comments:

Gabriel said...

Halloween's almost here. Bring out the candy... and the tentacles :)
I know there's still more to come this month and i'm excited to see it, but i'm also sad that this segment is over. Had a lot of fun finding out about these books. Great job.

David said...

I'm glad to see that Echo got her very own sugar heart all for herself. She looks so happy. Muahaha!