Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Gospel according to Iggle Piggle

Over the last few weeks, Jeremy and Abigail have both become entranced by In the Night Garden on Cbeebies Bedtime Hour.  In fact, it seems to have sidled in to become part of our bedtime routine.  At first I thought it was utter rubbish and that I would go mad if I ever saw another episode, but the more I watch it, the more I see its hidden depths.  You know, if you put your tongue in your cheek and watch it very carefully indeed, In The Night Garden contains a wealth of mythology, theology and symbolism.  I'm sure I have yet to uncover many more layers of meaning, but here's a selection of just a few that I've noticed.

The Night Garden itself, of course, stands for heaven.  Although it has been somewhat clumsily aligned with folk religion in its representation as a place 'up there' in the stars, its various features becoming the constellations of the night sky, plenty of other clues give it a more Biblical grounding.  The mere fact that it is a garden, of course, recalls Eden; the white blossom that parts as we enter it stands for purity, and its inhabitants each take on their own symbolic role:

Iggle Piggle:  The only character who ever seems to enter and leave the garden, Iggle Piggle acts as the visionary or prophet, St John the Divine perhaps, allowing the viewer a peek of eternity.  In his boat, he recalls the ferryman Charon of Greek mythology, accompanying the soul across the dark waters of death to its eternal dwelling.  The red blanket he clutches, which covers him and from which he draws comfort, is an obvious allusion to the blood of Christ, covering sinful humanity to allow passage into the presence of God.

Upsy Daisy: She is the soul.  Traditionally female, she has attained salvation and now dances and sings for joy.  The bed which follows her around symbolises her perpetual state of blissful rest.

The Tombliboos: Although it is tempting to say that Tombliboos Un, Oo and Ee represent the Trinity, this would of course be heresy, as they are three distinct creatures.  I thought that their constant kissing might be a clue, leading me to Psalm 85 verse 10, but if they were Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace there would be four of them; so I think they must be Faith, Hope and Charity, a triad of virtues.  Why they keep losing their trousers is anybody's guess.

The Tittifers: The unique songs of these groups of birds join together in harmony at the end of each episode, calling the garden-dwellers to hear the Story once again.  They symbolise the many tribes and nations perfectly joining together as redeemed souls in harmony with the will of God.

The Pontypines and the Wottingers: Two diminutive families represent unsaved human beings.  Their daily efforts are made to look twittering, pointless and repetitive, recalling Ecclesiastes 1 which bemoans the fate of humanity: "Meaningless, meaningless...there is nothing new under the sun".  The sins of Mr and Mrs Pontypine are visited upon their eight identical children.

The Haa Hoos: May be angels, or may represent the presence of the Holy Spirit, as they are air-filled and gently benevolent.

The Pinky-Ponk and the Ninky-Nonk: two very different ways of getting into and around the garden, these transportations stand for different but equally valid  experiences of conversion, whether chasing and searching for the truth (Ninky-Nonk) or being gently lifted up and led by the spirit (Pinky-Ponk).

Finally, Makka Pakka stands for Christ.  The rocks that are his constant companions symbolise the stones with which he builds his church, as well as the ones which he refused to turn to bread in the wilderness, preferring to embrace his humanity and his task.  Makka Pakka's task is to wash the other garden-dwellers, symbolising forgiveness and baptism, with his special sponge and red soap, a reminder of the sponge of vinegar offered to Jesus on the cross.  This task also reminds us of the washing of the disciples' feet, when Jesus warned Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me" (John 13:8)  He is the servant of all, smaller than all the rest, as it says in Philippians 2 verses 6 and 7: "He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant..."  His servitude, though, calls others to humility, as all must bend down to have their faces washed.

So, brothers and sisters, next time that irritatingly catchy music goes '" and poor Derek Jacobi begins his narration, let us venture rejoicing, with open minds and hearts, into the Garden in the Night.


Anonymous said...

This is very enlightening - than goodness I only had to cope with the Telletubbies when mine were knew where you were with a Noo Noo!


Rachel Ferneley said...

I always thought there was something deeper going on there, thank you for explaining its depths. It reminded me of a children's prayer.

God of quite nights of sleep,
Float me on the darkness deep,
out on dreamlands drifting sea,
with an Angel gaurding me.

Helen said...

I am so glad that you have shared with us your interpretation of what, for me, has been a tantalising vision of...something...and yet I have known in the depths of my soul that In The Night Garden isn't just pointless and irritating rubbish with tunes and trills that stick in your mind in the dark reaches of the night.
One thing have I to add. I think the Lord has inspired me with an interpretation for the lost trousers of the Tomblliboos. Clearly the repetitious losing of the trousers stands for the constant striving and failing of the human race when aiming for ideals of virtuous perfection. How vulnerable we are when we have thrown aside faith, hope and charity in favour of independence, pride and selfishness. How exposed to the darts of the evil one. How unprotected...and what disaster might befall us! Yet by grace each one of us is forgiven and granted another chance to put on our trousers once again.
Amen and Hallelujah.

A(me) said...

Ah, sister Helen, how true! He has vouchsafed to you great wisdom in the matter of the trousers. May we all be granted the braces and elastic of humility and repentance.