ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

The Story of Ferdinand, Revisited

Did you know that Ferdinand the Bull turned seventy five years old on March 31?

After posting my “Make Way for Ducklings” video on Rosslyn Redux, several friends mentioned that Robert McCloskey’s Boston duckling adventure was one of their favorite children’s books too. Which inevitably prompted me to throw The Story of Ferdinand into the mix. A lifelong fan of Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s masterpiece, I’m forever finding excuses to toss the flower-sniffing bull into conversation…

From good things, good things come! I was rewarded with exciting news: Ferdinand is a septuagenarian! For three quarters of a century Ferdinand has inspired kids (and adults!) to stop and savor the blossoms.

The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand (Image via Wikipedia)

Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand,” the book, which was illustrated with simple black-and-white ink drawings, opens. Deep in corrida des toros country, Ferdinand stood out from all the other bulls: “He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.(ArtsBeat, New York Times)

Pamela Paul‘s post lead me to the quirky video above in which Seth Rogannarrates and the Salastina Music Society accompanies. Creative interpretation of the story!

Chasing down a related link to a vocal rendition of Ferdinand the Bull by The Lennon Sisters I stumbled across this version performed by theDixieland Swingsters. In fact, it turns out that YouTube is chock full of Ferdinand videos including:

I suppose that 75 years is plenty of time for derivative works to be inspired, produced and forgotten. And yet, I’d never stopped to consider the cretive legacy that The Story of Ferdinand. Cool. But I’m still sticking with the original. Simple line drawings and all!

Ferdinand the Bull

[Ferdinand the bull]… doesn’t fit the typical mold of other young male bulls: he doesn’t like to fight or butt heads. All he wants to do is enjoy the meadow and smell the flowers… “Ferdinand’ is a perfectly absurd story which will make everybody laugh and chuckle. Smell the Ink

Absurd, perhaps, and sublime to boot! My favorite book as a boy; and today, my favorite boy as a book. The Story of Ferdinand. Or as I always remember and reference it, “Ferdinand the bull”. Some childhood habits die hard!

This simple but poignant children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson has never lost its sparkle for me. It’s still inside, still beside my bedside, still my favorite gift for chilluns and olduns alike. The story, the pictures, the corks in the trees, the flowers in the ladies’ hair, the dazed look of confusion/euphoria on Ferdinand the bull’s handsome mug, his mother’s look of concern, the bee-stings-bull’s-@$$ action sequence, the long ride home. The Story of Ferdinand is a must own, read, re-read for the child in all of us. And the adult in every child.

Ferdinand the Bull Updates:

[January 24, 2012] I’ve come across the video version of Ferdinand the bull quite by accident. I never knew it existed. Raised without television I overlooked the obvious: most good children’s books were at some point Disnified!

A quirky little video, certainly no more compelling than the story. Perhaps less so? I am intrigued to see Lawson’s illustrations animated, as if — after so many years — Ferdinand the bull had wiggled off the page. However Ferd’s mother, especially her goofy walk and her grating voice, are a little far from the mark.

The rather dated flavor or this Walt Disney short and the almost literal translation of the story to film does provoke my curiosity what a modern digital version of Ferdinand the bull would look like. I imagine that the potential of today’s digital storytelling is much more compelling than Disney’s short film. Perhaps it already exists? Perhaps we should add it to the great “To Do” list in the sky?

Ferdinand Tattoo

Ferdinand the bull tattoo (Credit: TheNinth)

[March 26, 2013] It’s always fun to discover old posts that continue to be read. A lot. Like this goofy glimpse at Ferdinand the bull, a truly “evergreen” story! While it’s a pleasant surprise to be reminded how many folks stumble onto this post, I am even more delighted by the number of people I meet who remember Ferdinand the bull with fondness, who reference his story to help clarify real life situations, and often enough who tell me that I’m a real world Ferdinand the bull. I know that sometimes they’re gently (or not so gently!) mocking me, but the gibe always flatters me. Silly? Perhaps.

But there is something more I’d like to pass along, a more peculiar and wonderful update that I couldn’t possibly allow to languish in the distant reaches of the web: a Ferdinand the bull tattoo! No, I haven’t overcome my phobia of needles to commemorate my favorite flower smelling bull. But the magic of the interwebs have brought this illustrated arm (or leg?) to my joyful attention. Enjoy!

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