Dark Carnival 75th Anniversary Retrospective: “Uncle Einar”

[For the previous Dark Carnival post, click here.]


“Uncle Einar” (1947)

He was one of the few in the Family whose talent was visible. All his dark cousins and nephews and brothers hid in small towns across the world, did unseen mental things or things with witch-fingers and white teeth, or blew down the sky like fire-leaves, or loped in forests like moon-silvered wolves. They lived comparatively safe from normal humans. Not so a man with great green wings.

The titular man-bat’s career of “flying Family errands” comes to a crashing halt while returning to Europe following a Homecoming celebration in Mellin Town, Illinois, one Halloween: drunk on “too much rich crimson wine,” Einar flies right into a “high tension tower.” This jolting experience robs him of his “delicate night-perception,” and effectively grounds him (since he’s loathe to take wing during daytime, for fear of being shot out of the air or turned into a zoo exhibit upon discovery). So now even though Einar has settled down with a family of his own, he is fed up with domestic life, with being reduced to a fanner of children and air-dryer of his wife’s laundry. But in the story’s climax, Einar transcends his bitter, brooding existence. Encouraged by his children to come watch their merriment at a festival, an ecstatic Einar realizes he can return to the skies and fly freely during daytime by cleverly disguising himself as a kite.

“Uncle Einar” evinces fantasy’s capacity to broaden horizons and expand the experiences of real-world-bound readers; Einar entertains his wingless offspring with “wild starlit tales of island clouds and ocean skies and textures of mist and wind and how a star tastes melting in your mouth, and how to drink cold mountain air, and how it feels to be a pebble dropped from Mt. Everest, turning to a green bloom, flowering your wings just before you strike bottom!” Lighter and decidedly less dire than Bradbury’s other Dark Carnival offerings, the tale strikes such positive themes as the acceptance of difference (Einar’s wife Brunilla sees nothing monstrous whatsoever about him) and the refusal to be limited by so-called disability. Short and sweet, sentimental yet not saccharine, this story of soaring imagination has lost none of its wonderful flavor over the past seventy-five years.


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