Krtek, an internationally beloved cartoon character, and he's finally getting his due by riding with American astronaut Andrew Feustel on the spaceship Endeavor's April mission.Lumps of lawn rise every few feet on most front yards here in the Northwest, due to nuisance moles tunnelling underneath. There's one mole, however, that we welcome into our home, and who has played a major role in my children's lives. His name is
Though generations of children in Eastern Europe embraced the non-verbal, simple TV cartoons first created by Zdenek Miler in Czechoslovakia in 1956, my children have their own personal relationship with the little mole and his forest friends. And he remains a part of our family's life every day, though our youngest has now graduated high school, and most of the time, our home is quiet.
Nearly two decades ago, when my husband hosted "Sneak Previews," the movie-review TV show on PBS (a job he held for 12 years), he was approached by a wonderful, kindly gentleman whose dearest wish was to popularize Krtek the Mole in the US. His six-year-old daughter, while suffering with serious illness, found pleasure watching Mole cartoons, and it was in memory of this that he undertook his project. As my husband was known for his strident support of family values, the gentleman felt he might share an appreciation of the animated gentle digger whose interactions with fellow animals wordlessly addressed such sophisticated topics as jealousy, competition, intrusion of technology, environmental pollution, loyalty and friendship.
And indeed, my husband and each of us fell in love. Our children were small, and video-cassettes of The Mole became perpetual favorites, viewed over and over again. The Mole theme was a musical riff around our home, and I hum it now as I write this. The kindly gentleman, who devoted his own resources to publicity for the Mole, provided us with all sorts of wonderful Mole-abelia, including stickers, posters, calendars, a huge plush toy that was my son's favorite, and the shaggy rug that still warms my children's feet when they're home and step out of the shower, graced with the smiling big-eyed black Krtek holding a beach ball and waving "hi" with his four chubby fingers.
My husband enthusiastically endorsed The Mole, recommending the cartoons on his TV show often, but to our disappointment, he never took off. But now, thanks to the space shuttle, a hand-puppet version will, spending two weeks skybound and at the International Space Station, among the personal items of astronaut Feustel, whose mother-in-law hails from a Czech-Austrian border town.
I'm very sentimental about the little mole, and dip into my stash of stickers for every home-made birthday card I make for my son. One time we were honored to have the kindly gentleman in our home, and the children and I created a Mole shrine, a collection of drawings and Mole items just to show him how much Krtek and his friends meant to our lives. We're not the only ones: though no Mole cartoons have been released since 2002, last year alone fans shelled out $1.5 million for official stuffed Mole toys.
So when I saw a couple days ago that the Wall Street Journal had a front-page article about the Mole's ascent into the stratosphere, I was delighted. Perhaps now the sweet cartoons that helped a small girl laugh through her pain--and captivated my own little ones--will bring joy to American children, and help maintain the happy innocence they deserve.