Thursday, October 27, 2016

Andrew Lang's The Crimson Fairy Book was originally published in 1903. My Dover reprint includes reproductions of the illustrations that appeared in that original publication--you know the sort, those crowded ink drawings of girls with overflowing hair and draperies twining around their ankles, those baby-faced boys with pointed shoes and come-hither skin, and those exquisitely toothed monsters. And everyone, even the monster who is getting strangled, appears to be swooning with desire.

It is interesting that adults at the turn of the century thought these kinds of pictures were appropriate for a children's book. Not that I'm complaining. I loved them when I was young, and I love them now. Still, I mean, really . . .

In addition to being full of naked boys tied to horses, each of these illustrations has a caption, and those captions themselves are as a good as a tale. For instance:
The Faithful Servant turns to stone. 
She lived happily in her Nest. 
The Prince lets out the Hairy Man. 
The Boy who could keep a Secret. 
The Witch loses her Iron Nose. 
The Bald headed Man on the Mountain.
This would be a fine writing prompt: to invent a new tale based only on an illustration and its caption. Maybe I should try it.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

And as I read those, that is just what I thought would be fun too even before you mentioned it. The idea is akin to lining up book titles to make a found poem.
Forever, it seems, what is and is not appropriate for children's viewing has been debated. I remember turning pages very quickly in order to avoid certain illustrations and yet others just fascinated me.