November 25, 2001
Compost Heap Castle
spent most of my adult life haunted by the memory of a cartoon I saw on
TV, one time as a child, and then never saw again.
storyline, as I dimly recall it, went something like this:
young mole lives happily with his parents and his brothers and sisters in a cozy
little mole home below the earth. One day while he is above ground,
playing, he discovers a castle in a field near his home. This castle is
the loveliest, most enchanting, most magical thing he has ever seen in
his young mole life, and he falls instantly in love with it. Every day
he sneaks off to the edge of the field and just sits there for hours,
gazing in rapture at his lovely castle ... daydreaming about what life
must be like for the people who live there, creating elaborate
fantasies about who built the castle and why, wondering if he'll ever
live in a place half so grand.
parents and his brothers and sisters don't believe him when he tells
them about his discovery. "It's just your imagination!"
they laugh, though not unkindly. But the little mole boy knows what he
sees, and he knows what he loves, and he will not be dissuaded ...
until his birthday arrives, and his parents give him a new pair of
eyeglasses for a birthday present. Thrilled with his ability to see the
world clearly, for the very first time in his life, he dashes from the
dinner table in mid-celebration and runs out of the mole house as fast
as he can, racing above ground and towards the field to enjoy his first
clear look at his pretty castle ...
except that his castle, when seen with the new eyeglasses, is not a
castle at all, but is rather a huge smelly compost heap, swarming with
flies. The little mole boy is heartbroken to learn that this thing he
loves -- this beautiful castle around which his life and his heart and
his dreams have revolved -- is nothing more than a mountain of rotting
garbage in a field. Sadly he returns home, where he tells his family
that they were right, it was just his imagination: his castle never
really existed after all. And then he sinks into a profound depression
... refusing to eat, refusing to play, refusing his mother's attempts
to comfort him, refusing to leave the mole home at all.
not clear on what happens next. Like I said, I only saw the cartoon
once. It was an older cartoon even when I saw it -- one of those sweet,
surreal, slightly-faded cartoons from the 30's or 40's, probably being
shown on a local TV channel between Saturday Afternoon Matinee
selections -- and I've never seen it again. I don't know whether Mother
Mole, worried about her son's broken spirit, purposely hides her son's
glasses, or whether they are accidentally crushed or misplaced or
stolen ... but somehow the glasses end up gone, and the next thing we
know, Mother Mole -- who is either the best mother in the world, or the
worst: I've felt differently about her, at different stages in my life
-- is gently leading the little boy mole by the hand to the edge of the
woods and pointing off in the distance and telling him, "Look!
Your castle has returned!"
his eyeglasses, of course, the compost heap has turned once again into
his beloved shining castle. We see him joyously hugging his mother -- "See?
I told you it was real!" he says, and
she agrees that yes, he was right, it's been a castle all along -- and
there the cartoon ends, with mother and child embracing and the vision
of the compost heap/castle shimmering in the background.