#Bagpuss, carissimi Bagpuss, adipem vetus-cat canale furorem. Esto vigilans et respice in hac re me adducere, Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem, aurea, et in luc em. Bagpuss: Audite quod et Hermogenes ego canto.#
These are the words that were spoken or sung by children all over the land in the early seventies, as they sat down to watch the miracles performed by their god in the guise of the most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world. Bagpuss, for it is he, is an age old tale of good vs evil; of a reluctant hero and his adversaries; a tale of witchcraft, black magic, evil and broken hearts. Come join me, if you dare, as I expose the truth behind the cat-god.
Before the incantation, before those fateful words are spoken, Bagpuss (and the rest of his world) is in a peaceful, sepia-tinged sleep free from the horrors and abominations that he himself has inflicted onto the rest of the land. However it is a totally different landscape once he has been awoken from his slumber. The land and surrounding become a garish colour and Bagpuss himself changes colour before our very eyes.
And as Bagpuss awakens so do all of his adversaries, acolytes and associates, all wanting a piece of Bagpuss; to use his gifts and powers for their own needs irregardless of the consequences that unleashing his power will happen to the rest of the land.
First to awaken are the mice on the mouse-organ. These simple minions are nothing more than foolish pawns in a dangerous and deadly game that is outside of their understanding. They are Bagpuss’s ‘fixers’. They mend, repair and restore the broken object that is delivered to them by unknown hands and after singing positive, upbeat songs and fixing little bits here and there, these mindless slaves are happy to present the finished article to Bagpuss (who they believe to be their Master) and seek his approval, lest he be angry and reverts back to cat-mode and eats some (if not all) of these happy-go-lucky little fuckers!
After the mice wake up (but before the fixing is done) our next two members of the Inner Circle awaken: Madeline and Gabriel The Toad. Now this is a really sad tale. Madeline was once a woman who searched far and wide for her one true love, her own Prince Charming, a man she could love forever, marry, bear his children and bake him little cupcakes with sprinkles on top. Alas, Madeline was tricked by a unscrupulous Toad-God who, on hearing her lament for a Prince Charming, claimed that he was a frog that had a bewitching curse put on him and could only be freed by the kiss of someone who was pure of heart. Not knowing the difference between a toad and a frog, Madeline threw all caution to the wind and bent down to give the ‘frog’ a kiss, wherein a blinding flash was seen and Madeline felt herself getting smaller and smaller and smaller, and she found her movements were getting less co-ordinated until she realised with horror that she was now the same size as the creature she had just kissed but her soul, her spirit, her life force was trapped inside a rag doll and the ‘frog’ then revealed himself to be none other than Gabriel the Toad King and that she was now his wife. Madeline tried to get away but Gabriel whipped out his banjo (ooo-err missus!) gave it a quick pluck (ooh-ere-NO!) and the helpless woman began to sing and dance to the sounds emanating from the accursed banjo. Gabriel brought her back to Bagpuss’s lair and with the help from the mice stitched her into the wicker chair in which she still resides. Sleep lets her remember her life as a human, but when the incantation is spoken, Madeline awakens and is brought back to her horrific reality as Gabriel the Toad-King’s wife and slave.
But the real power behind Bagpuss, the string puller, the King maker is Professor Yaffle; an adversary carved into the shape of a woodpecker. He controls what goes on in the lair. He himself goads the mice into fixing the broken object by sneering sarcasm and a negative attitude. Prof. Yaffle is the raging Yang to Bagpuss’s sober Yin, he belittles the mice; he dismisses Madeline’s stories as fanciful nonsense and poppycock and he goads Bagpuss into using his powers to help repair the broken object, knowing full well that each time Bagpuss uses his powers it weakens him psychically and allows Prof Yaffle to gain more control over the destiny of the object.
Bagpuss and the mice fix the object, not out of love but out of resentment, out of pride, out of a desire to put one over on Prof. Yaffle which plays exactly in Prof. Yaffle’s hands and the object becomes infused with hatred and resentment. It is then placed into the shop window and bought by elderly aunts or doting grandmothers and given as gifts to children all over the land. Maybe you were given it as a gift or maybe it was bequeathed to you from the will of a dead elderly relative and you never really looked to closely at it before, just stuck it away on a shelf in a back bedroom or somewhere else where no-one really goes. Once in a while you may notice the tchotchke (a porcelain doll, a small replica of a building, a figurine of a child or a dancer) has moved or changed position and you’ve given it no thought, blaming it on the kids, your spouse, the cat or maybe the wind; or maybe you’ve had the feeling of being watched, of tiny eyes burning deep into the back of your head, being unsettled by something that you can’t quite explain but you dismiss it as childish nonsense or just the after effects of a night out on the tiles, but you would be mistaken my friend, very much mistaken. For even now, at this very moment, Professor Yaffle’s evil creations are gather their energies, the hatred and resentment put into them by Bagpuss and his simpleton mice and they are preparing to attack you and transfer their evil souls into your body, control you and help release the shackles off Professor Yaffle and free him to reclaim the throne as Supreme Ruler of the Universe! Be vigilant, dear reader, be vigilant!
Next Time- The Death of Mummy Woodentop: spontaneous human combustion or was there something more sinister?