NOSTALGIA: Khanoum Atefi, The Happy Prince, The Little Mermaid and Malek Khorshid


NOSTALGIA: Khanoum Atefi, The Happy Prince, The Little Mermaid and Malek Khorshid
by Darius Kadivar

Some of you may remember Khanoum Atefi our national Story teller on NIRT & Jam e Jam TV who used to have children program of her own. I fondly recall her telling of wonderful stories based on Persian and European classics.

She used to call herself "ghesseh-gooyeh shomaa" (Your Storyteller). Later in exile she became a newscaster on Voice of America's Persian service. Her voice was known to millions of children who listened to her reading stories on Radio Iran, passed awayon September 20, 2002. Unfortunately All I do not have any recordings of her ( if anyone does please contact me I am interested) but I do recall vividely her readings of Oscar Wilde's Classic The Happy Prince as well as Shahbanou Farah's translation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid. I hope that these clips will convey the spirit of her enchanting programs which were equally entertaining, magical and educational.

Here is a Tribute to her and Our childhood memories ...

Magical Shahnameh inspired animation produced for Kanoon:

Before there was an Iranian New Wave, there was Kanoon. Founded in 1965 with the blessing of then-queen Farah Diba, the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults--mostly referred to as Kanoon, an abbreviation of the Farsi name--produced books, audiotapes, and films, both animated and live action, for Iranian children from Tehran to Bushehr, Sistan, and Baluchistan. Stories such as Baba Barfi (Father Snow), Amoo Norooz (Uncle New Year), The Journey of Sinbad, or Khorshid Khanoom Aftab Kan (Shine on, Lady Sun) were tales that all Iranian children would come to know and cherish. Prior to Kanoon's founding, most children's books in the country were translations of Western classics. There was Pinocchio, The Little Prince, and Tin Tin--all in slightly clumsy Farsi.

The history of Kanoon is equally entwined with many of Iran's most epic late-twentieth century stories, from Empress Farah's cultural initiatives to the heyday of the Iranian left to the revolution. Kanoon would become a sort of incubator for some of the country's most celebrated artists--including Ebrahim Forouzesh, Noureddin Zarrinkelk, and many of the protagonists of Iranian cinema, Sohrab Shahid-Sales, Abbas Kiarostami, and Amir Naderi among them. The following is the first in a series of conversations in Bidoun about Kanoon. Here, Arash Sadeghi engages his father, the painter Ali Akbar Sadeghi, who is best known for pioneering a style that mixed traditional Persian coffeehouse painting and the surreal, and Farshid Mesghali, one of Kanoon's most important graphic designers and animators. Among the elder Sadeghi's most iconic projects during his time at Kanoon was Malek ol-Khorshid (King of the Sun, 1975), a magical animation inspired by the tenth-century Persian epic The Shahnameh (The Book of Kings). Mesghali is probably most beloved for his illustration work on the book Mahee Siya Koochooloo (The Little Black Fish, 1968). Here, the three discuss the founding of Kanoon and its activities up until the time of the revolution of 1979. One way to gauge a nation's history, after all, is to look at what its children have been reading.

Here is an Animation of the Classic Tale of the Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. produced in 1974, starring Glynis Johns as the swallow and Christopher Plummer as the Prince.

The protagonist of the story is a gilt and bejewelled statue of a prince, who stands on a tall column overlooking a city. A swallow, who has delayed his migration to Egypt for the love of a reed, rests on the statue's plinth; the Prince is crying at the injustices he can now observe, having been isolated from the realities of his society while he was alive. The Prince asks the swallow to remove the ruby that adorns his sword, and give it to a poor seamstress with a sick child; the swallow does so. The swallow stays with the Prince over the ensuing weeks, distributing the jewels and gold from the Prince to the poor of the city. When the Prince is completely denuded of gold, the swallow realises he is dying from cold; the Prince asks the swallow to kiss him on the lips. The swallow dies, and the Prince's lead heart breaks. The next day, the Mayor of the city observes the state of the statue, and orders it to be removed and melted down. The Prince's heart does not melt in the furnace, and it is discarded on to the same dust-heap where the swallow's body is lying:

"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."

The  Original LONG Version of the 1970's Animated Classic:

Part I:


Part II:

Part III:

Birth of Crown Prince Reza on October 31st 1960:

Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Anderson:

Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Anderson-The Emperor's New Clothes:

"The Little Mermaid" (Danish: Den lille havfrue) is a fairy tale by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity as a mermaid to gain a human soul and the love of a human prince. The tale was first published in 1837 and has been adapted to various media including musical theater and animated film.

The Little Mermaid lives in a utopian underwater kingdom with her father the sea king; her grandmother; and her five elder sisters, each born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and as the sisters become old enough, one of them visits the surface every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their various descriptions of the surface and of human beings.

When the Little Mermaid's turn comes, she ventures to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from a near-drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until a young girl from the temple finds him. The prince never sees the Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk's 300 years, but that when mermaids die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in Heaven. The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.

The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her excruciating pain. When the prince's father orders his son to marry the neighboring king's daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not, because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, who he believes rescued him, but adds that the Little Mermaid is beginning to take the temple girl's place in his heart. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her and the wedding is announced.

The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid's heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end and she will live out her full life.

The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.

The Little Mermaid -1975  narrated by Richard Chamberlain:

Part I:

( Note if you cannot see embeded video Click Here)

Part II:

( Note if you cannot see embeded video Click Here)

Part III:

( Note if you cannot see embeded video Click Here)

Hans Christian Andersen (1952) Thumbelina:

Hans Christian Andersen (1952) The Ugly Duckling:

Hans Christian Andersen (1952) no two people:

Hans Christian Andersen (1952) Inchworm song :

Beautiful beautiful Copenhagen:

Related Blogs:

pictory: Shah with King and Queen of Holland (1959) 

Recommended Watching:

ROYALTY: Shah of Iran state visit to the Netherlands 1959 (6 Parts) 


more from Darius Kadivar

I loved Khanom Atefi

by Monda on

Beautiful tribute DK jan.

Honestly, i prefer to read and think about a person without the interference of all the audiovisuals, but hey that's just me. 



by mehdi79 on

Hey DK, where do you get all these old videos from? any particular website or is it your personal collection?