Flicka, Ricka and Dicka: A sophisticated literary analysis

13 Oct
Flicka Ricka Dicka

Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are Swedish triplets in a series of children's books. This is not one of those books. Unfortunately. It would have made the series a lot more interesting.

In her stimulating reading of Jean de Brunhoff’s anti-colonialist book, “Babar Steps on a Bunch of Pygmies” (1937), Gertrude Sobolik analyzes the strategies through which colonialism pathologizes the colonized subject.

By excluding that subject from the fruitful self/other dynamics that create subjectivity, colonialism polices “the boundaries of cultural intelligibility.” In so doing, it also determines which individuals attain “full cultural signification” and those who simply get stomped on by an elephant in a green suit.

Through its dissemination of an imperialist power-knowledge, it arbitrates who shall (or shall not) have “unfettered access” to a rich self-identity. If, as psychoanalysis claims, the “I is an Other,” then “otherness constitutes the very entry into subjectivity” and “means you’re gonna get your pygmy ass stomped” (Identification 141-43).

But what happens when, as in the colonized context, this entry is blocked or severely curtailed?

How they hell should I know? This is a review of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates.”

Susannah Greenberg, the PR gal for children’s book publishers Albert Whitman & Co., asked me if I wanted a review copy. She explained Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are three blonde Swedish sisters who …

Say no more! Send me a copy immediately!

Wait a minute. Did she say children’s book? Then take your time. I was expecting something completely different — especially given the name of the third sister. (She really ought to think about getting a different nickname before she reaches middle school.)

Flicka, Ricka and Dicka are spinoff characters from a series of books about Snipp, Snapp and Snurr — male Swedish triplets created by author/illustrator Maj Lindman in the 1930s. Their many boring adventures included “Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Red Shoes” and “Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and the Big Surprise.”

Trust me. The surprise is not all that big. It involves red shoes.

Still, I would love a review copy of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates.” I love reviewing books. Anyone who knows me knows I am as famous for my sophisticated literary criticism as I am for my juggling skills.

In fact, I can’t wait to actually read “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates” to criticiz it. I will start now.

When you look at Flicka, Ricka and Dicka and Snipp Snapp and Snurr what you end up with is a sentence that uses the word “and” way too many times. You also get three stupid names that rhyme and three names that start with the same consonants and are also quite stupid.

What does this tell us about Maj Lindman? I think it is safe to say that she was high on marijuana (or “reefer” as it was known in the ’30s) when she created these characters.

Notice, too, that all the children have uniformly blue eyes and blonde, curly hair. What is Whitman trying to say here, especially in the context of the ’30s? I think she is saying, “Hey, if you’re a Nazi, you’re going to love these books!”

The books are obviously statements on conformity and homogeny in pre-war Europe. Footwear is also important to Lindman. New skates. Red shoes. The latter is obviously a metaphor for Stalinist Russia while the former alludes to Hitler skating across Europe.

Lindman and her blonde-haired, blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked protagonists hint, subtlety, at Aryan supremacy. Some of her imitators were not so subtle. As Hitler tightened his stranglehold on Europe, writer/illustrator Ludwig Carl Heinrich (a Frenchman) produced “Fritz and Schlitz and the Jew with the Really Big, Crooked Nose.”

Fritz and Schlitz had a brother, but his name was a slang term for excrement, so the Gestapo killed him on page 2.

Above all, it is important to remember that I just made that up. Likewise, I have never read any of Maj Lindman’s work. I am sure it is perfectly charming and absolutely sickening. The fact that the latest edition of “Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and Their New Skates” comes with paper dolls only serves to make me more nauseous.

Then again, 48-year-old men are probably not the target demographic for this book (one would pray to God).

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