Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade Gifts

Some people in life just can't be pleased.  No matter how decent you are towards them, they will find some reason to resent you and your efforts.  Perhaps life has dealt them one to many bad hands.  The only way they can gain control is by nitpicking and absconding from pleasantries.  Ironically, the only thing that brings them pleasure is sharing their displeasure.  Such is the case with grumpy Mr. Figg.

Mr. Figg (right) in the middle of his trademark cry of disgust and contempt.

Who is Mr. Figg, you ask?  He is one of the four stars of the do-it-yourself Christmas special entitled "The Purple-Necked Black-Beared Blatch."  What sounds like a rejected Dr. Seuss title is actually a one-act play written by Jerry Juhl for the December 1969 issue of the popular magazine Woman's Day.  Mothers across the country were given instructions on how to build the Henson-designed puppets and put on this little pageant in their own living rooms.  By having the works of Juhl and Henson come through the parents directly, children would better reap the benefits of the short tale.

For your reading pleasure, I present the full play.  It's a quick read.  You have time.

The siblings Zing and Zang Zong are as energetic as their onomatopoeic names suggest.  They represent the unbridled optimistic yin to Figg's unwavering pessimistic yang.  Just as they fail to see Figg's sour attitude and antagonistic behavior towards them, he fails to understand what makes them so peppy.  And, like many adults, whatever he doesn't understand makes him angry and violent.

The titular Blatch is a blank slate.  Whatever others project onto it is what it becomes.  Mr. Figg tells the audience that he has captured this fearsome creature in a box that will cause suffering and misfortune.  Yet it never exhibits such characteristics.  As soon as the Zong twins get a hold of it, it becomes faithful and caring.  Did it have a change of heart?  Or was it always like this?  It seems as if it would not settle on a form until it had been perceived by the others after opening the box.  Schrödinger's Blatch, if you will.

Like a baby bird claiming its mother, the Blatch absorbs the Christmas spirit of the first people he sees, making him a vessel for joy.  And so, in a rare move for a Christmas special of any kind, the Blatch is re-gifted to Figg.

Re-gifting, in most social circles, is taboo.  Unless the gifts are used as some part of "white elephant/Yankee swap" situation, giving such a gift would be frowned upon.  If the gift is unopened and the original gifting party is totally unaware of the transaction, then it can slide.  But re-gifting to the person who gave it to you is a huge no-no.  Usually this results as an unfortunate mistake, but the happy-go-lucky Zongs blatantly re-gift with pride.

And, against all odds, Figg is deeply moved by this action!  Even though it is disrespectful and tacky, it was born out of a genuine desire to appreciate him.

A gift is a gift.  And although it is so cliched to say, "It's the thought that counts," remember that when you have lost all hope for merriment during the Christmas season, that one small thought is all it takes.  

(If you would like to make your own production of this play, the original instructions for puppet design can be found here and a printable pattern sheet can be found here.)


  1. I would love to see the Muppet-making instructions. (Incidentally, I happened across your blog recently and have really been loving it. Great stuff!)

  2. I managed to track down the original instructions and patterns! I shall put links in the post. Thanks for reminding me and for enjoying my blog!

  3. Thanks so much! Really nice of you to go to the trouble!