“The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion,” is the name of a book written by Henry Darger. If you thought the name of the book is the weirdest thing about this story then get this, this book is a 15,145 page work which took over six decades to create (talk about patience).
Darger’s personal life, his book’s inspiration and his book’s story, all are incredibly interesting and thought provoking. Darger was institutionalized in the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children in Lincoln, Illinois, with the diagnosis that “Little Henry’s heart is not in the right place”. According to John MacGregor, the diagnosis was actually “self-abuse” (at the time, this term was a euphemism for masturbation, rather than self-injury). Once released from the asylum, Darger repeatedly attempted to adopt a child, but his efforts failed. Images of children often served as his inspiration. The portrait of 5 year old murder victim named Elsie formed a part of growing personal archive of clippings Darger had been gathering. However these clippings were stolen from him during a burglary. He prayed for the safe return of these clippings.
The fictive war that was sparked by Darger’s loss of the newspaper photograph of the murdered girl, whose killer was never found, became Darger’s magnum opus. He had been working on some version of the novel before this time (he makes reference to an early draft which was also lost or stolen), but now it became an all-consuming creation. This book follows the adventures of the daughters of Robert Vivian, seven princesses of the Christian nation of Abbieannia who assist a daring rebellion against the evil regime of child slavery imposed by John Manley and the Glandelinians. Children take up arms in their own defence and are often slain in battle or viciously tortured by the Glandelinian overlords.
Darger illustrated his stories using a technique of traced images cut from magazines and catalogues, arranged in large panoramic landscapes and painted in watercolours, some as large as 30 feet wide and painted on both sides. This monstrosity is bizarre for countless more reasons but if I were to delve into them then this article will exceed the permissible limit (pun intended). He wrote himself into the narrative as the children’s protector. Fittingly Darger’s headstone is inscribed “Artist” and “Protector of Children”.