Little Lost Children
A Story for Henry Darger
By Alan Reed
Edited & designed by Olchar E. Lindsann
Cover image by Bradley Chriss
Henry Darger was a night janitor in a hospital in Chicago who died an old man, alone, with no friends or family to speak of. When he died, the task of emptying out the one-room apartment he had lived in fell to his landlords.
Inside, they found that he had spent his whole life creating an imaginary world, a sprawling phantasmagoria revolving around the events of a child slave revolt in a far-off land and its brutal suppression. He had written thousands of pages of text, accompanied by intricate paintings, collages, and drawings, all depicting in equal parts cruelty, violence, and a strangely out of place sense of innocence and wonder.
This is the story of one of the children from the world he imagined, caught up in the events of the child slave revolt and the war that resulted from it, struggling to make sense of why their life had to be the horror that it was.
“I stumbled deeper into the woods and Henry sat hunched over at his kitchen table. He drew these things happening to me. He spent whole days and entire nights here, bent over, working. There was just this one light, this one bulb, and his hands moving carefully over blank pieces of paper. He still did not know how to draw. He traced the pictures of children that he found and he painted them the colours he thought they should be. That is how he made us. Me and all of my friends, and all of the children who had lost hope and all of the children who had died.
He dipped his brush into an old, thrown away mug, to wet it. He painted with watercolours, the kind that a child might have. He dabbed bright and beautiful colours onto the suffering of children. He knew that what was happening to us was terrible. It saddened him to see it happening. His hands moved slowly, carefully, gently, even, over every horror that befell us.”