‘ware bears!

Issue 3/1988 | Archives online, Children's books, Fiction

Urpo and Turpo

Illustration: Jukka Lemmetty

Urpo and Turpo are a pair of teddy bears. Their family – mother, father and three children – cannot imagine who it is that makes such a mess; the bears live their own absorbing lives in house. Hannele Huovi’s text and Jukka Lemmetty’s illustrations describe the bears’ antics in a way that appeals to the sense of humour of readers of all ages.

In the green house an ordinary family are living a perfectly ordinary life. There’s father, mother, The Big Daughter, The Son, and also The Baby as well. Mother keeps running back and forth all day long shouting, ‘Goodness gracious! Who’s responsible for this?’ For very funny things keep going on in the house. Who on earth is it – always getting up to some sort of hanky-panky?

Father harrumphs and says to The Big Daughter:

‘It was you, wasn’t it?’ But The Big Daughter shakes her head. Father turns to The Son:

‘So it must have been you, then?’ But the son shakes his head. No use asking The Baby. He shakes his head anyway, because he’s always imitating the others. Father and mother are completely stumped.

No one gives a thought to two scallywags who are living in the nursery on the top floor. They’re two little bears: Urpo and Turpo.

Urpo is a tiny grey pocket bear. He’s got a blond stub of a tail, a broad bottom, and he’s fond of flowers. Turpo is a little brown teddy. He’s a proper daredevil and rapscallion.

Urpo and Turpo spend a lot of time laughing. And as laughing is fattening, they’re rather on the chubby side, both of them.

The trap

Urpo and Turpo had set up a trap on the nursery door, using a skipping-rope.

‘So what sort of animals are there hereabouts, then?’ Urpo asked.

‘Oh, all sorts!’ Turpo replied.

‘Lions?’ asked Urpo.

‘Lions, oh yes,’ said Turpo.

‘Elephants?’ asked Urpo.

‘Oh yes, elephants,’ Turpo replied.

‘Crocodiles?’ asked Urpo.

‘Crocodiles, oh yes.’ Turpo assured him.

‘Dragons?’ Urpo asked.

‘Oh yes, dragons,’ Turpo said.

Urpo was already getting scared. He’d no idea their jungle had so many dangerous beasts lurking about in it.

‘Are there coyotes?’ asked Urpo.

‘Oh yes, coyotes,’ Turpo replied.

‘Vultures?’ asked Urpo.

‘Vultures, oh yes, definitely!’ Turpo said.

Now Urpo was really scared. He stared at the trap in panic. How would they cope if an elephant walked into it? They’d no kind of weapon, not even a wooden sword. It was already getting dark in the jungle. The birds were hooting; uncanny footsteps were sneaking about behind the trees.

‘Will it hold, that trap?’

Of course it will,’ Turpo guaranteed. Night had fallen on the jungle. Spooky footsteps were coming closer. Urpo was sure he could see beastly shadows behind the bushes. Urpo and Turpo held their breath: NOW!

A mighty bellowing brayed throughout the jungle! A monstrous great animal had stepped into the trap and crashed to the nursery floor. It was roaring like a lion. It was as big as an elephant. It was flashing its teeth like a crocodile. It was breathing fire like a dragon. It was howling like a coyote. It also looked very like a vulture.

It was mother.

Mother got up off the floor and put on the light. Naughty words flew out of her mouth, words forbidden to children. Urpo and Turpo stood under the bed and shivered.

Mother yanked the skipping-rope off the nursery door and hurled it into the toy drawer. Then she swept out.

Urpo and Turpo sighed with relief.

‘A beast with many heads, that,’ Turpo whispered.

Urpo gave a pale nod.

The game

‘Let’s play draughts!’ exclaimed Turpo. He’d just found the children’s draughtboard.

‘Oh yes, let’s,’ Urpo agreed.

They spread out the checked black and white board on the table. They stroked it with their paws. It was slippery and shiny.

‘Know how to play?’ Urpo asked.

‘Course I do!’ said Turpo, fussing about. ‘But first we’ve got to find the men.’ The bears rummaged around for the draughtsmen in the cupboard, under the bed, in the sock-drawer, among the pinecones in a basket, and in the waste-paper bin, but the men were lost. The bears felt sad. On a nothing-doing grey day, you really feel like playing draughts.

‘Want a lozenge?’ asked Urpo. He’d found the children’s hidden supply of sweets and wanted to comfort Turpo.

‘Yes please!’ Turpo said and popped a black lozenge in his snout.

‘Hey, why don’t we play with these?’ Urpo suggested.

‘Good idea!’ Turpo gloated.

The bears arranged some black lozenges on the board. They put out some white peppermints. Then they began to play.

‘Now I’m going to take your man!’ said Turpo and ate it.

‘In that case I’m going to take yours!’ said Urpo, annoyed, and ate his.

‘Haha!’ threatened Turpo. ‘Now I’m going to swallow your white.’

‘So I’ll swallow your black,’ said Urpo.

And the bears ate a lot of each other’s men. Then they ate their own. They put out some more men on the board and ate those too. In the end they’d eaten up all the draughtsmen.

‘Ugh! Ugh!’ said Urpo and held his tum.

‘A rough game, that,’ Turpo sighed, going completely green.

The knights

Turpo was reading about the Age of Knighthood in the encyclopedia. Urpo was sitting on a shelf and reading a story about knights. They’d decided to be knights.

‘We ought to have a castle!’ Turpo decided and dragged the encyclopedia across the floor, over to the building blocks. ‘The plans are here!’ He showed Urpo the illustration.

So they studied the model in the book and worked at building a baronial castle all morning.

‘There ought to be a flag,’ Urpo pointed out.

‘We’ll plunder one!’ Turpo growled.

Knives between teeth, they scrambled up to the dolls’ shelf. They leered ferociously.

‘Pardon, dear maiden,’ Turpo said and tore off Molly the Rag Doll’s blouse.

‘Humble thanks,’ Urpo bowed.

They fastened the blouse to a pencil and hoisted the flag onto a turret. The blouse fluttered gallantly.

‘And now, in thy honour, noble maiden, we shall arrange a tournament!’ Turpo cried and waved at Molly the Rag Doll, who was freezing on her shelf.

‘Where shall we get the lances?’ wondered Urpo.

Turpo rummaged in the cupboard and hit on the felt-tip pens.

‘Thou art the Blue Knight!’ he shouted at Urpo.

‘Be thou the Red Knight!’ Urpo shouted at Turpo.

They seized the pens and began the onslaught. Felt tips levelled, they charged towards each other. They advanced and retreated. They struck and parried. Blood gushed from their open wounds. All the long afternoon, the knights tourneyed on.

In the evening, when The Son came up to the nursery, he was completely taken aback. A shattered castle was collapsed all over the floor, and two worn-out bears were sleeping in the ruins. One was covered from top to toe with blue stripes. The other was streaked all over with red.

‘Lord in heaven bless us!’ mother shrieked. ‘Whatever have you been up to now?’

The ship

The dachshund was snoozing on the nursery floor. Turpo peeped down from the bookshelf. He’d just been reading a lot of sea yarns and had decided to become a sailor.

‘Hey, Urpo,’ Turpo yelled. ‘There’s a ship over there!’

‘So it seems!’ Urpo rejoiced. And the bears hopped onto the deck.

The ship began to careen wildly.

‘Help! A storm!’ Urpo cried.

‘All hands to the pumps!’ Turpo cried.

‘SOS! We’re drowning!’ Urpo cried.

‘To the lifeboats!’ Turpo cried.

But the lifeboats were nowhere in sight and in the tossing of the wild storm the ship was wrecked and reduced to matchwood.

The comrades began to study the remnants of their ship.

‘This ship’s got four legs,’ Turpo said.

‘Weird ship!’ Urpo gasped.

‘This ship’s got floppy ears,’ Turpo said.

‘Weird ship!’ Urpo gasped.

‘This ship’s got whiskers,’ Turpo said.

‘Weird ship!’ Urpo gasped. Then the dog barked.

‘This ship’s got a really powerful foghorn,’ Turpo said.

‘Weird sound!’ Urpo gasped.

At this point the dachshund had had enough. He’d no intention of going on listening to the ramblings of a pair of stupid bears.

‘I’m a dachshund,’ the dachshund said.

‘Odd name for a ship, that,’ Turpo said.

‘Certainly is!’ Urpo whined.

The photograph

Mother had left the camera in the nursery. Urpo studied the camera and turned it round in his paws.

‘How do you take pictures with this?’ Urpo asked.

‘You press something,’ Turpo instructed him. ‘Try pressing everywhere.’

Urpo began pressing everywhere, but no picture came. Instead the camera was soon covered all over with jam, as Urpo had just been eating some bread and sweet-tip raspberry.

‘It sticks to my fingers,’ Urpo complained.

‘You’d better wipe them!’ Turpo fussed, and went to look for a rag.

Turpo climbed onto a bench, but there was no rag there. Turpo climbed onto the table, but the tablecloth was too big a rag.

‘Why don’t you get onto the dolls’ shelf!’ Urpo cried. ‘The dolls have lots of rags.’

Turpo jumped straight from the table to the dolls’ shelf, but the jump failed miserably. The dolls’ tea set fell tinkling all over the floor.

Mother heard a terrible racket coming from the nursery and wrenched the door open. Urpo jumped out of his skin. In turning suddenly, he pressed the button. And so, completely by accident, Urpo happened to take a snap.

When mother got the photographs back from the developers, she stood gaping. Among the rest there was one remarkable picture. It showed mother standing at the nursery door, pop-eyed with horror.

‘Good picture,’ father said, studying it. ‘You really look yourself there. Who took it?’

‘No one,’ mother said, very pale.

‘A ghost,’ said The Son.

Manners

‘Today, we’re not going to get up to a single bit of hanky-panky,’ Urpo decided one morning. He’d just woken up and the sun was shining.

‘Agreed,’ Turpo said. They shook paws to confirm it.

‘Today we’re going to be refined!’ they said with one voice.

Then they dug out The Golden Book of Good Behaviour and began to behave with refinement.

‘Good morning, Mr Urbo!’ Turpo said and bowed politely.

‘Good morning, my dear Mr Turbo,’ Urpo said and raised his hat.

‘What shall we have for breakfast, Urbo, my good fellow?’ Turpo asked.

‘Turbo, dear man, let’s go and have a look in the kitchen.’

So they ambled up to the teddy-kitchen door.

‘After you, Mr Urbo!’

‘No, after you, Mr Turbo,’ Urpo bowed.

They kept bowing by the door for quite a bit, till they made up their minds to go through together.

‘What about some nice mudmeal porridge?’ Turpo suggested.

‘Mudmeal porridge is indeed a tasty dish, and nourishing,’ Urpo nodded.

So they began the preparation of the mudmeal porridge. They climbed onto the window sill and scooped a panful of soil out of a flowerpot. They poured in water from the watering-can and stirred it all together. They sprinkled a little sawdust and sand on the porridge, to flavour it, and set the table prettily. Then they sat down to breakfast.

‘Please help yourself, Mr Turbo.’

‘Thank you so much, but after you, my dear Urbo.’

‘Oh no, after you,’ Urpo said.

‘No, you!’ Urpo growled. And the bears kept on offering the mudmeal­ porridge pan to each other till were absolutely famished. So they decided to ladle the porridge onto their plates at exactly the same time.

‘Delicious,’ Turpo said.

‘That delicate mud-aroma!’ Urpo breathed it in and smacked his lips. When they’d breakfasted, Turpo burped. Urpo glared at him fiercely.

‘Pardon me,’ said Turpo.

‘You’ve got mud on your whiskers,’ Urpo observed. They’d left out the napkins when they set the table. Turpo was just going to wipe his whiskers with his paw, when Urpo gave him a severe look. He handed Turpo The Son’s dirty sock. Turpo thanked him and wiped his mouth on the sock.

In this way the bears conducted themselves as civilised and courteous beings all day long. From time to time they said ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and ‘after you’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘with respect’ and ‘I’m delighted to hear your opinion’. All day they kept smiling at each other in the friendliest manner and bowing and inclining their heads. Turpo carved a walking stick for himself with a pen-knife and flourished it with distinction as he walked along. Urpo raised his cap when Molly the Rag Doll went by. He picked a flower from the geranium and fastened it on her bosom. Every now and then he would say, giving himself a stretch:

‘Quite so, Mr Turbo. For such is life …’

To dine in the evening, they prepared a large pan of mud gruel. They garnished the gruel with geranium petals and wiped their moustaches decorously with The Son’s new cap. After dining, they poured the rest of the gruel into the cap and carefully washed the pan out with flower water. They wiped the pan with The Son’s pyjamas and put it on a shelf in the doll’s house.

‘Well, that was a lovely day,’ Urpo sighed, tired.

‘Indeed it was,’ Turpo nodded. He concealed a yawn with his paw.

‘Perhaps I’ll go to bed now,’ Urpo yawned. ‘Sleep well, Mr Turbo. Good night.’

‘Thank you, and the same to you, my dear Urbo,’ Turpo said.

Then they snuggled into their little beds and pulled the sheets round their ears. The room was very quiet.

Urpo peeped at the stars, which were shining through the nursery window. He felt very happy.

‘Just think. The whole day I behaved properly,’ Urpo mumbled. ‘I’d never have believed it possible!’

Turpo didn’t hear. He was snoring.

Translated by Herbert Lomas

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