Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Story of the Vivian Girls

"In The Realms of the Unreal, innocence lives in the constant shadow of danger..."

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Henry Darger was a janitor. Quiet and reclusive, with no family and no social life. When he died in 1973, his landlords went about cleaning out his apartment and discovered a 15,000+ page manuscript (typewritten, single-spaced) entitled:

"The Story of the Vivian Girls,
in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal,
of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm,
Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion"

Jessica Yu fashioned a beautiful documentary called "In the Realms of the Unreal" a few years ago, that I've just discovered.

A description of Darger's magnum opus, clipped from his informational website:
The story recounts the wars between nations on an enormous and unnamed planet, of which Earth is a moon. The confict is provoked by the Glandelinians, who practice child enslavement. After hundreds of ferocious battles, the good Christian nation of Abbiennia forces the 'haughty' Glandelinians to give up their barbarous ways. The heroines of Darger's history are the seven Vivian sisters, Abbiennian princesses. They are aided in their struggles by a panoply of heroes, who are sometimes the author's alter-egos. The battles are full of vivid incident: charging armies, ominous captures, alarms and explosions, the appearances of demons and dragons.
As far as I know, no one's attempted to publish the entire manuscript.

In addition to the text, he created mixed media illustrations, creating makeshift canvases out of butcher paper, drawing on BOTH SIDES of the paper.

The last article on a Hollywood movie version of Darger's life. I'm a bit more intrigued by the actual fiction he crafted. A body spends a lifetime creating a fully-illustrated, 15,000+ page war fantasy, there's got to be some juicy material in there.