On Monday we got back to the house after our 4th of July festivities to see this scene:


It’s a sofa! In front of our house. And not one of those hip, polyurethane outdoor couches from Design Within Reach, but more like a ratty, heavily used, might-be-something-living-in-it type of couch.

As you might imagine, we were a little surprised by it, and somewhat mystified by its presence. (And a little stumped on how to, you know, get rid of it.)

Anyway, imagine our surprise the next day, when Kathy looked out the window and saw this scene:


There’s a guy sitting on the couch! Nice! And, again, not totally what we were expecting.

So we puzzled over that a while. With a little sleuthing, and help from my Twitter friends, it’s now obvious what’s happened: we’ve been visited by the Couch Fairy.

It’s a story as old as time, and we all know how it goes: an always working, ambitious person (the protagonist) returns home from a trip to find a sofa on their lawn that they weren’t expecting. After a little while, they discover a grouchy, impish old man lives on the couch, although he comes and goes at some unpredictable intervals. When asked questions directly, the old man (who’s really The Couch Fairy, as we all know) never answers about who he is or what he’s there for, or, indeed, where the couch came from. All attempts to remove the couch — whether by having people take it away, chopping it up into little pieces, setting it on fire, whatever — ultimately fail, as the couch keeps returning over and over.

After weeks or months of this type of activity, the protagonist ultimately accepts that you can’t always take care of things in a direct, get-it-done! type of manner, but sometimes have to accept that things are how they are — so he or she takes a break, sits on the couch and just slows down to watch the world go by with the Couch Fairy for an afternoon. And they realize that they like this newfound slower pace of life.

You know how it ends — the next morning they come out to sit on the couch again and watch the world go by with the Fairy, but both the couch and the Fairy are gone, nowhere to be found. But the main character has learned to slow down a little bit, enjoy the world around them.

So that’s clearly what we’ve got going on here. Nothing to do but slow down, accept the situation and roll with it.

Like all archetypal stories, this is one that’s been told & retold dozens of times. The canonical first known telling is, of course, Hans Christen Andersen’s The Couch Fairy (Das Sofa Elf), which is the one we’re all familiar with from our childhoods.

Then there was Kafka’s The Sofa, and the absurdist Austrian play from the 20s “There is no couch.” (Es gibt keine Couch.)

And of course there have been many movies, including:

  • 1976:

    The Couch Fairy, starring Dustin Hoffman as the protagonist and Walter Mattheau as the Couch Fairy

  • 1988: What’s up with the sofa?, starring a goofball Robin Williams as the Imp and Sean Penn inexplicably cast as the harried main character

  • 2002: Couch This!, a slightly angrier version with Robert De Niro in the role, and Jason Bateman in the main role

There was always a plan to do a more modern version directed by Terry Gilliam, but it’s been plagued by a series of disasters. First it was set to star Will Farrell, then Will Arnett, and now Jimmy Fallon is attached to it, which I think means obviously it’ll be straight to video, no theatrical release.

And don’t forget David Foster Wallace’s take: “Who will speak for the Ottoman?” featured in the New Yorker in 2006. It’s a long essay, and pretty esoteric in my opinion, but really a must read if you’re interested in the canon.

And of course we’re all extremely excited for the upcoming 2012 Broadway retelling “Couched!” which features Whoopi Goldberg as the Fairy with Nathan Lane set to sing the protagonist’s role.


So that’s where we stand. Gotta wait the old guy out.

[Thanks to @shaver, @mart3ll, @humphd & others for the clues to figure things out this morning!]

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