A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Hooptedoodle #1 - Patapoufs et Filifers

“No,” said Mack. “Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. The guy’s writing it, give him a chance to do a little hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe, or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up in the story. So if the guy that’s writing it wants hooptedoodle, he ought to put it right first. Then I can skip it if I want to, or maybe go back to it after I know how the story came out.”

John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday

This is not entirely an irrelevance. I have to say in my own defence that the inclusion of this piece comes straight from consideration of what happened to the proportions of the human form, as seen by wargame figure sculptors.

I have in my possession a very battered old copy of André Maurois’ lovely Patapoufs et Filifers. I believe the book is still available in some form or other, but sadly not with the original artwork by Jean Bruller. My copy was given to my mother for Christmas when she was 11, in 1936.

It is a children’s fantasy about two neighbouring nations, the Patapoufs (who are all fat and docile) and the Filifers (who are skinny and irritable), who are irreconcilable. They just can’t get along or agree on anything, and eventually they go to war. I won’t spoil the story by summarising it here, but their armies are very fine. The Patapoufs have small, rotund warships with sausages hanging conveniently so that the warriors can sustain themselves; the Filifers have long, thin tanks and wear pointy helmets. Excellent.

My favourite bit is the tribute to the heroic death of Commandant Tripouf, who died in the field as a result of getting stuck in a trench after overeating. You get the idea. Here is a view of their soldiers.

A few year ago I was going through my spare figures drawer and found a Hinchliffe model of Marshal Ney. He was so obviously a Filifer that I dug out the old Maurois book for reference.

As you will see, the late 1970s dividing of the wargame world into Hinchliffe and Minifigs fans was not entirely unforeseen.


  1. This was my favorite book as a kid, the translation is called 'Pattypuffs and Thinifers' (very un-'PC' now?), you forgot to tell us the best bit...the trenches are open at both ends and all-round convex, with the troops entering from either end, which is why they get stuck!! Oh how I laughed...instant link to what is obviously going to be a very good blog. [The heads-up was from Clive at Vintage Wargaming]

    1. My grand-father published this book and I have great stories of how it came about and works with André Maurois (Vercors), the illustrator. This book is very rare in French, I don't even have a copy - glad it's still popular outside of the family circle....

    2. My grand-father published this book in 1930 and I have good stories of how the story was drafted, with André Maurois (Vercors). The book is very difficult to find in France, I don't have a copy. I am happy to see that it's still popular outside of the family circle;

  2. Thanks very much for getting in touch and for reading the blog - the Maurois book is a great favourite of mine.

    Yes, very un-PC - it's the only hope for all of us!