Animals play a special role in children's literature, particularly in fables and fairy tales. They often behave like humans and take their place as the protagonists of stories. This exhibition focuses on stories in which animals retain their natural characteristics and behaviors. It is clear how much "animal" is still within these fictional characters. What is so surprising is how much we say about ourselves as humans when we talk about animals.

Maya the Bee and Her Adventures (2019-04-30) by State Museum Nature and Man OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

The sounds of a beehive
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The adventures of little Maya the Bee beyond the safety of her hive have captivated generations of children. The book gives an insect—a rebellious female figure—a voice for the first time.

Waldemar Bonsels (1880–1952) was a well-known author, though controversial because of his ties with National Socialism. "Die Biene Maja und ihre Abenteuer" (Maya the Bee and Her Adventures) was his first children's book. It dealt with topics that were important at the time, such as obedience, individuality, and freedom.

The tale of Maya the curious bee has been translated into many languages. In addition to Dutch, Spanish, Slovak, and Russian publications, there are also versions in Hindi and Arabic.

The exhibition compares the silent movie made in 1926 and the animated feature movie from 2014. The 1926 version stars a real bee colony and features a battle with a swarm of hornets.

The Diversity of Bambi (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

The forest is Bambi's natural habitat. This is where he is born as the son of the Old Prince of the forest. He grows up among the forest animals, goes on adventures, falls in love with Faline, and finally becomes the Old Prince himself.

Felix Salten (1869–1945) was an Austrian journalist of Hungarian descent with Jewish roots. His story about the life of "Bambi" the deer (1923) is what made him famous.

Still feeling the effects of World War I, "Bambi" turns to nature. Man does not live in the forest. To the animals, "he"—the animals' term for humans—is purely a hunter. "He" brings great danger with him, because "he" determines life and death.

The exhibition shows snippets from Walt Disney's "Bambi" (1942). In the animated movie, man is not seen in physical form, appearing only as a musical motif. This gives the impression that man is a force of nature, something overpowering.

Miss Minoes (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

An environmental scandal! Illegally dumped garbage poisons the cat Minoes and she suddenly finds herself inside a human body. Now she looks more like a woman, but to humans she behaves too "catlike," and to cats she is too human.

This mummified cat was found in a 17th-century roof vault. It would have been impossible for an animal to get into this space once it had been built—was she walled in to keep out evil spirits?

Miss Minoes (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

The children's books by Annie M.G. Schmidt (1911–95) saw her become known as the "Dutch Astrid Lindgren" in her home country.

The story of Minoes plays with the idea of what is typically "catlike" versus typically human. What would happen if a person behaved like a cat? What would cats have to say about this merging of feline and human characteristics?

Freddy the Hamster (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

Freddy the hamster learns to read and to type with a computer keyboard, meaning that he can finally communicate with his owner, Mr. John and tell him all about his exciting life as a hamster!

From 1998 onward, Dietlof Reiche (born in 1941) recounts the exciting tales of Freddy the Golden Hamster in a total of six volumes. He was awarded the German Youth Literature Prize in 1978.

Communication between living creatures is primarily used to find a mate or ward off enemies, using sounds, scents, and gestures. Different species can have very specific ways of communicating among themselves, but interaction can also take place across species boundaries.

The Great Honeyguide, Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, 2019-04-30, From the collection of: State Museum Nature and Man
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The Greater Honeyguide eats beeswax but can't open the nests itself. These birds will call for help from a honey badger or a human. Humans can also rely on the bird to lead them to a bee nest.

Sputterfly (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

"Krasshüpfer" (2016), known as "Sputterfly" in English, tells the story of Hidde and his older brother Jeppe living in a house with a secret basement. When Jeppe stakes his claim over the basement, a quarrel breaks out between the brothers.

The Dutchman Simon van der Geest (born in 1978) has received several awards for his book. In Germany, the diary novel was nominated for the German Youth Literature Prize in 2017.

Hidde keeps various insects in the basement, such as stag beetles, crickets, and caterpillars. He is fascinated by their chitin exoskeletons and camouflage techniques and they inspire him in his battle with Jeppe.

Camouflage Masters, Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, 2019-04-30, From the collection of: State Museum Nature and Man
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Many insects and arachnids camouflage themselves to trick predators. For example, some imitate branches, leaves, or even other insects with defense mechanisms to avoid being discovered or despised.

Children's Books and Their Politics (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

Many narratives reflect on our dealings with animals and raise ethical questions. Should we be allowed use them however we want? What responsibility do we have toward them?

In "Josef Schaf will auch einen Menschen" (Josef the Sheep Wants a Human too) by Kirsten Boie (born in 1950), the world is upside down: animals like Josef the sheep keep small people as pets. The book questions what constitutes human dignity. Should animals have the same level of dignity as us?

In "Zoo" by Anthony Browne (born in 1946), a bored family moves from enclosure to enclosure. Although modern zoos are usually generously designed, the book questions their purpose. Do they exploit animals or, actually, just humans?

Patrick George (born in 1968) gives us the chance to set animals free with "Animal Rescue." By turning over the transparent pages, we can decide whether the animal belongs in the human world or in the wild.

The Animals' Conference (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

In "Die Konferenz der Tiere" ("The Animals' Conference"), Oscar the elephant and his friends, angry at man-made wars and disasters, summon all the animals of the world together. They are certain that the future of the planet is the children!

Having lived through the horrors of the Second World War, the children in Erich Kästner's (1899–1974) works, such as "Konferenz der Tiere" (1949) and "Pünktchen und Anton" ("Dot and Anton," 1931), are morally superior to adults.

Paper Theater (2019-04-30) by Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch OldenburgState Museum Nature and Man

Paper theaters, or toy theaters, are largely forgotten as a medium today, but are still powerful in their own way. The theater sets shown here bring the pages of "Animal Rescue" to life.

These paper theater sets were created as part of a seminar in Art and Media at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg. They tell of the animals' yearning for freedom.

Stop-Motion, Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, 2019-04-30, From the collection of: State Museum Nature and Man
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The stop-motion animations and characters were created under the direction of Thomas Robbers for a seminar on "Digital Illustration Techniques" in the Faculty of Art and Visual Culture at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg during the winter semester of 2018–19.

The Animals of the Stop-Motion Movies, Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg, 2019-04-30, From the collection of: State Museum Nature and Man
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This display showcases some mock-ups that were used as templates for the stop-motion movies. The students accompanied the animals cinematically on a fictional journey from the natural history collection to freedom.

Credits: Story

Text: State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg
Konzept/Redaktion: Frieda Russell
On the basis of: Erzähl mir vom Tier. Tiere in der Kinderliteratur und in der Natur im Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg vom 4. November 2017 bis 28. April 2018. Für das Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg herausgegeben durch Dr. Christina Barilaro und Mareile Oetken. Mit Beiträgen von Peter-René Becker, Michael Demanowski, Mareile Oetken und vielen mehr. Isensee Verlag, 2018.

© State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg
www.naturundmensch.de

Photographs: Sven Adelaide, State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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