A fake feathered parrot. Little bells, strung on a braided cord. Cut out paper figures. Artificial sunflowers. Nail polish, transparent. Shelves full of clothes. Document files. Swarming butterflies, in the shape of stickers. A double meter stick. Piles of books. Pictures and a postcard-mobile. At the heart: Rakel Helmsdal’s study.
Green paint, red window frames: The house she lives in is located directly behind the Fróðskaparsetur Føroya, the University of the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn. Close to the Faculty of Faroese Language and Literature, to be exact. Perfect match. Rakel, writer, puppeteer, artist, writing teacher, and, just around the corner, the Faculty of Language and Literature. What could be more appropriate? Same goes for Rakel’s two garden gates. Their very presence: an invitation to universal storytelling. Two garden gates. One on one side of the property, one on the opposite side. Odd. Immediately, I start making up a story.
Once upon a time, there was an old, big-bellied king, sweet-tempered, but forever trapped in his own castle. Over the years, the castle’s two drawbridges had driven him crazy. Which one to stroll about? Where to parade, showcasing shiny new robes and pompous uniforms? Drawbridge to the left? Drawbridge to the right? The poor guy simply couldn’t make up his mind … I decide to teach my king-character the ins and outs. Since the first gate is stuck, I use the second one.
Doorsteps, affectionate reception, looking around. Lots of wood, vivid colors and activity, made by Rakel & family. The artist herself is just about to brew some tea in the kitchen. Stair climbing, second floor, the study. Rakel, cross-legged, ensconces herself in an armchair and introduces me to her imaginative universe.
Her plays, short stories and books for all ages. Her character Victor Hugo Persson. The teamwork-little-and-big-monster-books (translated into 16 languages). Her surreal 3D-tableaux. Her award-winning novel „Hon, sum róði eftir ælaboganum“ („She Rowed After the Rainbow“, this year’s Children and Youth Literature Prize of the West Nordic Council). Even the puppet theatre she started in 2011: All her works are connected – by the art of storytelling. „I have always made up stories“, Rakel says. „I just use different techniques to tell them.“
How does Rakel find her characters? „I often stumble upon a clue while I’m listening to classical music. It’s a bit like putting pieces of a puzzle in place. I’ve also started to frequently go for a swim. As to me, visiting the public swimming pool of Tórshavn during the peaceful morning hours turns out to be the proper thing to do. The monotony of the exercise has a brilliant effect on me and my writing. During swimming, I sort of loose reality. It’s like going into a meditative state of mind. At the same time, I gain strength and acuteness of thought.“
At present, Rakel is working on her first novel for adults. „The story takes place in the real world, on the Faroe Islands, in Denmark and in France“, she discloses. „My main character is a 22-year-old woman. It’s a sort of crime novel, mixed with dreamlike sequences. Basically, there is this skeleton, and you have to find out who it is.“
Rakel always reads and writes different books at the same time. Stagnation? Not in her universe. As a puppeteer, she runs a mobile theatre. Light, sound, costumes, plot, marionettes, puppetry: all Rakel. In the near future, she wants to set up a permanent theatre stage, too. „Right here, in our basement. About 30 seats. That’s what I have in mind.“
Two garden gates, red window frames and a downstairs-puppet-theatre: The perfect stage for two drawbridges and a big-bellied king. I bet the fellow has already introduced himself to Rakel. Now he’s the one having tea with the artist. Blackcurrant, with a richly satisfying flavor.