The Six Wives of Bluebeard
Can you name all Bluebeard's wives? Do you know at least who was his last one?
Sometimes you need a name for a crossword, sometimes you just want to check how the seventh wife (some even search for the eights) was called, and sometimes you need a full list of Bluebeard's dead wives. Here is a book which might help you with that.
Or maybe not. By many the best story about the wives of notorious serial killer called Bluebeard is written by Anatole France. According to this, his wives were:
- Colette Passage
- Jeanne de La Cloche
- Gigonne Traignel
- Blanche de Gibeaumex
- Angele de La Garandine
- Alix de Pontalcin
- Jeanne de Lespoisse
Anatole France's story presents his wives in a bit different light than people only familiar with a fairy tale may be aware of.
In the fairy tale, they are indisputable victims but when we are informed by their previous positions in their lives and relationships with Bluebeard, things definitely look different.
There are also several stories with six or eight wives of Bluebeard altogether.
For this occasion, we'll focus on the less known book by Sabilla Novello. It's titled Six Wives of Blue Beard from Mendacious Chronicles. It is written by Sabilla Novello and dedicated to her nieces Porzia and Valeria dei Conti Gigliucci.
Not much is known about Sabilla Novello and the situation with illustrator is very similar. He is signed as George Cruikshank Junior what gives us an impression he is a son of a very successful George Cruikshank who was still alive in the time of the publishing of this title. Thanks to the fact George really signed himself as Jr. on several occasions there's also an opportunity he authored the illustrations. Maybe he just helped at designing the cover, adding his monogram in the left down corner.
But looking at the pictures, their style, and especially the vivid colors, the author is most likely George Cruikshank's nephew (son of his brother Robert) whose name was Percy George Cruikshank. Using the name of his famous uncle and even his monogram on the cover can be just a marketing trick for better selling of the book. This puts us in an ungrateful position of not knowing the exact copyright status of the book. Percy George Cruikshank's date of death is unknown.
We can rely only on the fact he was not active after 1884. We also know he was born in 1842 what means he should live way over one hundred years (to die after 1949) to keep the copyright of presented pictures out of Public Domain what is very unlikely. So we'll present them anyway. Each picture carries a story and they are presented as well.
Bluebeard while his beard was not blue yet
Pompernicus Gynicide was a nobleman. He was brave and elegant and almost ready to be married. Apart from having a temper and occasionally impulsively killed a few servants, he looked like a very good catch.
His godfather Estrellus who was skilled in black magic suggested to Pompernicus' mother making a horoscope to find a perfect match. Soon he realized there's something strange with the fate of the young man. No matter how he calculated, there was a warning - Pompernicus will be in very great danger because of the curiosity of his wife.
Estrellus believed and Lady Gynicide agreed. The only option to prevent the tragic consequences of the marriage would be marrying Pompernicus with Estrellus' daughter Basbluella.
BASBLUELLA: "I throw the Blue 1n thy Beard!"
Young Baron Gynicide and Basbluella married yet soon realized their characters don't truly match. She was all about books and he was all about tournaments and combats. Once when he insisted she should join his company at hunting she was just practicing black magic and more or less incidentally changed the color of his splendid beard into blue.
Blue beard became an object of ridicule among his friends and later Pompernicus angrily cut her throat. He told Basbluella's father she died in an accident practicing her dark skills and he believed. Her body was embalmed and put in one of the chambers in the tower. Pompernicus became very depressed and soon stayed almost without friends.
He sought out ROSE, and asked her if she would like to be married
As a widower Pompernicus more and more evaded company. He referred wandering around the forests and mountains. One day he met a shepherd and they liked each other. Shepherd introduced him to his granddaughter Rose who saw only a couple of old men and wasn't shocked by the strange color of Pompernicus's beard. She even told him they had a habit of naming people after particular characteristics. Just like she was called Merry-voice, he should become Bluebeard.
Soon he realized the naive girl could be a good wife, especially after his too educated first wife. After a few minor comical complications, she married him and became a lady of the house. There each of her whims was readily served with one exception. she was forbidden to enter the tower where Bluebeard and his ex-father-in-law practiced rituals in an attempt to restore the color of his beard to normal.
But she could not resist. One day, when her grandfather visited the castle and she felt particularly self-confident, she led him right to the tower. Believing her husband won't punish her she entered the forbidden room when Bluebeard and Estrellus were in and her husband cut off her head. When her grandfather started cursing him, he stabbed him in the heart.
Now two dead wives lied in the chamber. Bluebeard started heavily drinking and gambling, with numerous bursts of his temper. After a while, his godfather realized he'll die soon and told him he should still beware of his wife's curiosity. He had two options - to not marry or to test his next wife's curiosity. For this test, he gave him a key to the forbidden chamber with his wives' remains. The key was transformed with magic - if anybody but Bluebeard opens it, it will change its color.
He also tried to add he should, by all means, avoid a woman named Fati... but died before he told the name.
He struck off the Head so dear to VIOLANTE
After the death of his second wife and his godfather, Bluebeard focused on hunting for some time. Then he heard about a tournament with an interesting price: the winner will get a princess Violante for his wife. Bluebeard started well, winning the first day and remained hidden under his helmet. At the end of the day, he even refused to take the trophy saying he came to win all. That charmed the king but not the princess who was obviously interested in a handsome knight named Gaetano.
When Bluebeard won the second day, he was very tired and a bit wounded. When he was resting a damsel visited him with a warning. Her name was Gelosinda and she heard her princess plotting with Gaetano and a doctor about poisoning Pompernicus Gynicide. He thanked her and in the morning tricked the doctor who believed he drank the potion while he threw it away. Then he won the last day of the tournament. For the grand finale, he decapitated Sir Gaetano.
The wedding party was a disaster with the bride crying in her rooms, without any dancers, and king and Bluebeard being only ones eating. After a few days, Bluebeard took his third wife with some of her damsels (Gelosinda included) to his castle. There he warned her not to enter the tower with dead bodies of his first two wives. He also balsamed the head of Gaetano and continued spending a lot of time hunting.
Step by step Galesinda convinced princess Violante she should enter the tower at least to say farewell to the head of her dead lover. When she did that, she found both death wives but Bluebeard caught her and cut her head with his scimitar as well.
The Lady Gelosinda
GELOSINDA stopped in astonishment
Bluebeard sent a coffin (keeping the body for himself) and a message to Violante's father. He made up a convincing story about princess death and everybody believed. All her damsels with an exception of Gelosinda who pretended illness left the castle. Her plan was simple and effective. She wanted to become the next wife of Pompernicus Gynicide. So she did. But she was very jealous. His constant hunting and secret businesses in the forbidden tower drove her mad. She believed he has a mistress there. His numerous nightmares
One night she followed her husband in the tower where she discovered the dark secret - dead bodies of previous wives. She begged for mercy but Bluebeard stayed true to his promise. He cut her throat and balsamed her remains.
TIMIDELLA: The Princess rushed into Bluebeard's arms
Pompernicus Gynicide aka Bluebeard remained single for some time, spending his days mostly hunting and looking for adventures. One day a dwarf met him and told him about a giant who kidnapped a princess Timidella. He locked her in a tower waiting to gain some fat so he could eat her.
Bluebeard challenged the giant. Timidella's striking beauty distracted him so much the giant managed to wound him. However, with some help from the dwarf and Timidella, Bluebeard cut the giant's head off. He went to Timidella's father where a great party took place. Timidella who had a very panicky character started showing romantic interest yet her father didn't like Bluebeard who looked too strange, so he decided to leave.
But Timidella followed him by herself and soon they married in his castle. They were happy together and Bluebeard almost forgot his dark secrets. He even got a son. Unfortunately, the son of the killed giant started looking for Bluebeard and his wife. He wanted to catch them both and eat them. This news had two consequences: Bluebeard went out to find the giant and kill him just like he killed his dad, and Timidella started panicking.
Believing the safest place in the castle was the forbidden tower, she entered with the key, given by Bluebeard as a sign of trust and found dead bodies of four wives. The key changed color and she ran out. Being in her room again she killed herself with a knife. Bluebear became a widower again, but this time he had to take care of his son too.
Boy was shy and sensitive like his mother, so Bluebeard decided to find a way to make him stronger and more self-confident. For this reason, he contacted a wise woman from the neighborhood, a widow known by her medical knowledge.
The Widow Huswifina
HUSWIFINA: The Widow readily consented to prescribe for the Baron's sickly Son
Huswifina readily accepted the mission of improving Bluebeard's son. She moved to the castle and started commanding the servants who had to renovate almost every corner. There he got her a laboratory next to his son's room. She started giving him more and more inedible potions. The dwarf, who stayed in the castle after Timidella's death, hated her but Bluebeard was impressed by her efforts and soon he took her for his sixth wife.
Not long after this, son died and Huswifina focused on Bluebeard's health instead. Her other favorite pastime was cleaning the castle. When Bluebear went on a bit longer travel, the dwarf took advantage and, knowing ho dangerous would be for Huswifina entering the tower, started convincing her to clean that place as well. But she kept her word and didn't want to enter the place, forbidden by her husband.
Dwarf, however, decided to enter himself, just checking if his dear Timidella's body ended with other wives. Huswifina noticed the missing key and followed the dwarf. When she approached the door of the forbidden chamber, he pushed her in and locked the door after her. In the night he returned and found Huswifina dead. When Bluebeard returned, he told him that Huswifina couldn't resist her curiosity, entered the tower, where, he, the dwarf and his faithful servant struck her to death.
Bluebeard felt kinda relief. On his trip, he met a poor family with two lovely daughters and several sons who all became soldiers. He decided he should marry the elder of the daughters - Fatima.
This book was published by Grant & Co. in London, 1875
How Fatima became Bluebeard's wife and how her curiosity eventually led to Bluebeard's death, is an already well-known story. To refresh the memory and maybe learn a bit about its strong symbolism and historical background you can check here:
If you enjoyed the story about Bluebeard's six wives, share it with your friends!
How Harry Clarke saw Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales?
This is a very special book for at least two reasons. It's a translation of Perrault's Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé (Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oye) or Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Tales of Mother Goose).
Although it's practically the last of Perrault's projects, written when he was almost 70 years old, signed by his son's name and written as a sort of parody, it's by far his most important work. He wrote eight fairy tales among which we can see some of the most popular ones ever: Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty and Puss in Boots. He set the tone of the modern fairy tale as a genre, gave red color to the Riding Hood and described the slippers of Cinderella (here titled as Cinderilla) as made of glass. He added a moral (or sometimes even two of them) to the end of every story, emphasizing the educational potential of fairy tales (even if this was probably not his intention) which were made for grown-ups only in his time.
Thanks to this book the fairy tale as a self-standing-genre was born and Charles Perrault is rightfully proclaimed as the father of fairy tales. While none of the plots in this book is original and all stories were printed before his birth, Perrault showed the way to hundreds of writers who started writing, collecting, editing, and publishing fairy tales in next centuries. Yes, they started and never finished. Fairy tales are still being written after almost the same pattern as he used at the end of the 17th century.
The other reason why is this book so special are illustrations by Harry Clarke. His approach to already classic work of world literature is brave and unexpected, probably not aiming at kids as default audience at all. Thanks to his skills we can enjoy in dramatic black and white drawings where the tension between characters is obvious.
Each fairy tale is accompanied with a full-page color illustration with strong black linings yet often with colors which are often presented with numerous blending shades. Such an approach gave the illusion of space but not a typical 3 D space (children's illustrations are almost always 2 D). Clarke's color pictures are somehow elusive just like the scene is partly present here, in the real world, partly in some other (fairy-tale?) dimension.
There are also many decorative elements, one of the characteristics of the Art Nouveau movement. These are not always pretty as we expect in majority of cases. They often give a grotesque feel, what reminds as of another genius artist - Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1892). There are in general three or four unique illustrations for each fairy tale with a decorative vignette at the end (at the moral of the story). Sometimes there are two decorations and all of them are repeated for several times.
Let's take some time to look at fairy tales as they are sequenced in the book with scans of all illustrations:
Little Red Riding-Hood
This version of Red Riding Hood is slightly different than the version by Brothers Grimm we are mostly used to. At Perrault there is no hunter. The wolf eats the granny, then the girl and it's over.
(He asked her whither she was going)
The moral is simple: don't trust old guys. They are ultimate predators!
You may know this story under a different name: Diamonds and toads.
It's a classic rivalry between sisters. One is a victim and is rewarded for her kindness. The other is punished for her vanity.
Am I come to serve you with water, pray?
One of the girls gets diamonds, the other loads of toads.
Author offer two morals in this case:
- Money is great, manners are even greater.
- Your behavious will evetully be rewarded.
It's next to impossible to find this fairy tale about a mass murderer in modern collections. It's just too scary.
(This man had the misfortune to have the blue beard)
(What, is not the key of my closet among the rest?)
She betrayed his trust by looking into a forbidden chamber. So she must die.
There are two morals again:
- Curiosity can kill you.
- There are no husbends like Blue beard was anymore.
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
Everybody knows the story about the princess being cursed and waiting for the prince to wake her up after long long time, right? Wrong. This is an older version, specific to Perrault, which is closer to older variations of the fairy tale, like Sun, Moon, and Talia.
(At this very instant the young fairy came out from behinfd the hangings)
Apart from some minor differences like the number of the fairies in Perrault's (presented in this book) and Grimms' (most known) versions, there is a whole new world of plotswhen we find out the prince has a secret - his mother is a meneating ogre and his wife should fight for her life. And the life of their kids!
(The prince enquires of the aged countryman)
In the end, somebody has to die. Which lady will be prince's new favorite?
(He saw, upon a bed, the finest site was ever beheld)
(I will have it so, replied the Queen, and will eat her with a Sauce Robert)
As we can see, Perrault had a great although sometimes very black sense of humor.
How about the moral?
You may have a hundred years for a good husband and yet there will probably be more obstacles to the relationship.
The Master Cat or Puss in Boots
Another well-known story about the miller's sons who didn't inherit equal parts of father's heirloom. The youngest got just a cat.
But the cat was not an ordinary animal. With a pair of boots it transformed into an extremely resourceful helper and made his master a king!
Once more two morals of the story are offered:
- It's great to have a property, but it's even better to know how to act.
- Youth and good clothes may be enough to win a heart of a princess.
Cinderilla; or, The Little Glass Slipper
While there are more than one thousand known variations of Cinderella, this one is still best know in the world. It's the first one with glass slippers and with a happy ending where Cinderella (in this translation called Cinderilla) forgives her wicked sisters.
(Any one but Cinderilla would have dressed their heads away)
(Away she drove, scarce able to contain herself for joy)
(She left behind one of her glass slippers, which the Prince took up most carefully)
We are already accostumed to two morals:
Grace her make you a queen.
No matter what are your qualities and how many of them you have, you still should obey your godmother.
Riquet with the Tuft
This story doesn't belong to the best. It's about an ugly prince who is blessed by a fairy. He is not only extremely witty and likable but can make smart his true love as well.
When he meets a beautiful princess who is also very stupid, his mission is about to be completed.
Guess what? She was 'blessed' by the same fairy too.
- We are always attracted to beautiful minds. If they are paired with beautiful bodies even better.
- Love can find the best in everybody.
Little Thumb is a fairy tale very similar to Hansel and Gretel. Instead of a brother and a sister there are seven brothers lost in the wood. The youngest is the smartest.
(He brought them home by the very same wy they came)
Instead of the witch they find a house with an ogre. He is a maneater too.
(Little Thumb was as good as his word, and returned that same night with the news)
The second half of the story resembles Jack and the Beanstalk.
The moral of the story?
Sometimes the least respected member of the family brings the best.
The Ridiculous Wishes
There was a poor woodcutter, angry for not having a chance to fullfil a single tiniest wish. But he got a chance. He was granted three wishes!
(Jupiter appeared before him wielding his mighty thunderbolts)
He decided to choose his wishes very carefully. Together with his wife.
(A long black pudding came winding and wriggling towards her)
Well, their wishes were not so smart after all.
(Truth to tell, this new ornament did not set off her beauty)
The moral is obvious. If you are stupid, the gifts of the gods won't help you.
This fairy tale is out of fashion for long time now. It belongs to the family of stories related to Cinderella. But there's a twist - instead of the prince her own father is in love with her.
(He thought the Princess was his Queen)
When the princess realized his intentions, she ran away.
(Another gown the color of the Moon)
She disguised herself, she made impossible wishes, ... It was not enough.
(Curiosity made him put his eye to the keyhole.)
Fortunately, the king found his queen, the princess got her prince and everybody was happy.
The moral is a bit different than the morals before: although the plot in unbelievable, it can still entartain some audience.
With this we conclude the review of The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, illustrated by Harry Clarke. The book was published by George G. Harrap & Co., London in 1922.
Fairy Tales and Legends by Hans Christian Andersen with Dugald Stewart Walker's illustrations
Dugald Stewart Walker (1883-1937) was an insurance salesman at first but soon realized this job doesn't suit him. He found his mission in the world of art, studying drawing at the University of Virginia and New York School of Art. His style differed him from his contemporaries in the USA. Critics rather compared his work with Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. Original and eccentric execution of illustration probably achieved the peak in the collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen which succeeded great success.
Dugald Walker described himself as a man who never grew up. He never traveled and his audience can't expect him to draw an exact scene from the North Pole or China. But if they are willing to look at giants, magicians, and other mythical creatures through kid's eyes, as the young mind believes something should be, his illustrations are the right medium for that. Another important milestone in his career was a collection of fairy tales Dream Boats: And Other Stories which he wrote and illustrated.
The courtiers looked most grand and proper ... Numbers of tiny little elves danced around the hall
Here is a complete set of Dugald Stewart Walker's illustrations for Andersen's Fairy Tales, published in 1914 by George Sully & Company. The text below some of the illustrations is the same as the text in the original publication.
The Mermaid (more known as The Little Mermaid) is a tragic story about a little mermaid who fell in love with a prince. She saved his life but he never finds that out because she hid when he regained consciousness. They came to different worlds after all. But she tried to enter his world, sacrificing everything, going through extreme physical and psychical pain, just to be disappointed and betrayed. Her sisters tried to save her but she decided to stay faithful to her mission - being a part of the world with eternal souls.
She held his head above the water and let the waves drive them whitersoever they would
Then she saw her sisters rise from the water, they were as pale as she was
The Flying Trunk
This is a bit funnier story although still without a happy ending. A boy who lacks responsibility loses everything but becomes an owner of a flying trunk. This magical object gives him a chance to meet and charm a real princess, who believes he is an angel. He makes a great impression to her parents too but still lacks responsibility and celebrates the promise of marriage so much he set a trunk on fire. So he stays poor boy but has at least a good story.
And he told her all about the storks, which bring beautiful children up out of the river
I saw the prophet myself ... his eyes were like shining stars, and his beard like foaming water
The Red Shoes
It is a fairy tale about a girl who loved to dance so much she thought only about dancing and enjoying. She got red shoes with magical powers and despite all warnings wears them everywhere. Even on Sunday in church. But the shoes start dominating her, she became unable to stop dancing, she can't take them off and must cut off her legs to stop dancing before dies of exhaustion. She lost legs and newly regained faith is her only compensation.
She wanted to sit down on a pauper's grave where the bitter wormwood grew
You can't know who I am? I chop the bad people's heads off, and I see that my axe is quivering
Her soul flew with the sunshine to heaven and no one there asked about the red shoes
Thumbelisa is one of the less used names for Thumbelina, one of the most successful fairy tales by H. C Andersen. Thumbelina is a small girl, not bigger than a thumb, who is thrown in the big world of action, power, and dangers, always being pushed around by others, stronger characters. Despite everything, she becomes a friend with a swallow who carries her in a new world, where she meets a flower prince and finds her place among flower people.
She was so happy now, because the toad could not reach her and she was sailing through such lovely scenes
The Girl Who Trod On a Loaf
The Girl Who Trod On a Loaf is almost forgotten fairy tale about a girl called Inger. She was pretty but vain, ashamed of her own mother, and ungrateful for everything good she got from people around. On one occasion she had to go across mud but didn't want to dirty her pretty shoes, so she stepped on a loaf of bread she was carrying to her old parents. The loaf with her sank down to the marsh and she soon ends in Hell. After many years she is pitied by an unknown girl and in the end, she is finally forgiven her pride and arrogance.
Tears of sorrow shed by a mother for her child will always reach it; but they do not bring healing, they burn and make the torment fifty times worse
The Nightingale is a lovely fairy tale about friendship among a king and a bird. While this friendship becomes jeopardized thanks to the gift from the Emperor of Chine - a mechanical bird, the nightingale never forgot his king and returns to help him when Death already sits at his bed. Everybody else turned away, the mechanical bird is already broken, but the sincere love from the nightingale wins and his friendship with a king is there to stay.
Heavens, how beautiful it is! he said, but then he had to attend to his business and forgot it.
The Garden of Paradise
This fairy tale is about the prince who is smart, well-read, and generally happy but still seeks for very special knowledge. He wants to know where is Garden of Paradise and how it's in it. His journey is similar to many journeys from folktales - he is lost in the wood and finds a mother of all four winds. The last one of them really takes him to the Garden of Eden where he must resist temptation. Of course, he doesn't ...
The eagle in the great forest flew swiftly, but the Eastwind flew more swiftly still
The Fairy of the Garden now advanced to meet them: her garments shone like the sun, and her face breamed like that of a happy mother
There she lay asleep already, beautiful as only the Fairy in the Garden of Paradise can be
The Wind's Tale
Sometimes subtitled as About Waldemaar Daa and his Daughters it's a pessimistic tale about a nobleman and his three daughters told by the wind. The nobleman was an alchemist who was constantly seeking more money and prestige. A rich and beautiful wife was not enough. Lovely daughters didn't make him happy. He wanted to know how gold is made and he sacrificed whole family fortune for a chance to find the procedure. Everything was lost, including the health of all family members. His greed didn't pay at all.
She was always picking flowers and herbs, those she knew her father could use for healing drins and potions
The Snow Queen
This is probably the best Andersen's fairy tale. While it starts with a wicked troll (a devil in disguise) and his magic mirror, which breaks, what leads to the kidnapping of a little boy by the Snow Queen, it's essentially a story of the fight between good and evil. This fight is presented through the journey of Gerda (kidnapped boy's best friend) who despite all the obstacles defeats the mighty queen and her magic.
Look! The white bees are swarming
The biggest snowflake became the figure of a woman. She was delicately lovely, but all ice, glittering, dazzling ice
An old, old woman came out of the house ... she wore a big sun hat which was covered with beautiful painted flowers
She than said that she was sitting on The Mirror of Reason, and that it was the best and only one in the world
What the Moon Saw
Originally published as The Picture Book without Pictures is a very unusual fairy tale, made of 33 unrelated scenes, impressions from the different locations with only one common feature - being observed by the moon. The scenes are different, mostly, yet not always dark and pessimistic. Considering the fact everything happens in the night the tone of the telling is understandable.
If the public had seen their favorite how they would have shouted Bravo! Bravissimo! Punchinello
Her thaughts wandered from her home and sought Temple, but not for the sake of God! Poor Pe! Poor Soui-houng!
The Marsh King's Daughter
This is the second longest fairy tale by H. C. Andersen. It tells a story about an evil Marsh King who kidnapped a fairy princess from Egypt. They had a daughter who came from the depths of the marsh as a flower and is adopted by Vikings. She becomes a beautiful yet bad-tempered girl by day and good-hearted giant toad by night. As a toad gets a chance to rescue a priest from the captivity. He tries to save her from the spell but is soon killed by robbers. Despite that, he helps her in the form of a ghost and she is finally saved by the sign of a cross. She finds her mother and together they return to Egypt. There she marries a prince but is visited by the priest who takes her to heaven for three minutes only. Unfortunately, three minutes in heaven means a hundred years on Earth what means everybody she knew already died. Then she died as well.
She who is related to the fairies!
You shouldn't even tell me anything of the sort just now, it might have a bad effect upon the eggs
The great dragon, hoarding his tresures, raised his head to look at them
The Day-spring from on high hath visited us. To give light to them that sit in darkness, and to guide their feet into the way of peace
The Travelling Companions
Sometimes translated as The Travelling Companion the story presents a good man who is doing as many good deeds as possible in hope at least some of other people will follow his example. Among other things, he pays a debt of a dead man. Not long after a mysterious stranger asks him if they can travel together and the main character accepts. together they got into a land where a wicked princess asks her guests three questions. If they fell, they must die. Together they discover she is not wicked but under a spell, save her from the spell, the main character marries her and his traveling companion reveals him as the man whose debt he paid.
Great spiders spun their webs from branch to branch and the fairies swung hand in hand upon the big dewdrops which covered the leaves and the long grass
Oh what a flight that was through the air; the wind caught her cloak, and the moon shone through it
This concludes our journey in somehow dark yet beautiful fairy land of Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Dugald Stewart Walker.
Old Time Stories - A Collection of Classic Fairy Tales
This book brings many memories to older generation and still offers a great opportunity to present a few pieces of not so old history to younger generations. It is a collection of eleven fairy tales. Some of them are classic works, representatives of the genre, well-know all over the world, others are forgotten, but still worth you attention. Aall this years after their first publishing they still poses a very specific charm. You ar einvited to be a part of it.
First eight fairy tales are written by Charles Perrault. You'll probably know most of them. You probably need to live on other planet if you don't want to hear about The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella or Puss in Boots. Perrault wrote only eleven fairy tales in his lifetime yet majority still circulates around. They are actually amog the most popular stories in the world.
While the cover and inside title don't give credit to other two authors, it's only fair to expose them too. The first one is Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, who wrote the most known (not the first) version of The Beauty and The Beast, another all time classic.
The second author (third altogether) is Catherine d'Aulnoy, who is represented with two less known fairy tales, but is officially credited as a mother of the genre. She coined the fraise conte de fee, what means fairy tale.
We'll explore all eleven fairy tales with a help of superb illustrations signed by William Heath Robinson (1872-1944). We have already seen a few examples - pen and ink vignettes (black and white pictures are in majority) and one of a few color pictures (this one, a so-called frontispiece, represnets a scene from the story Little Tom Thumb.
After the list of fairy tales and the list of illustrations the book begins with a short reface. Then fairy tales follow one by one. We'll present them in exactly the same order.
The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
Perrault's version of this fairy tale begins similarly to mre known variation popularized by Grimm brothers. The king and the queen can't have children. When they succeed, they throw a huge party. Unfortunately, they forgot to invite one of the fairies who curses the baby. She will die of the spindle. This curse is later softend to the long sleep, but can't be annulled.
The king tries to forbid the spindles in the whole kingdom.
When an inevitable happens, a dwarf inform the good fairy who comes to the castle with a sleeping beauty and put everybody else to sleep too. Thick forest protects everybody inside from the inside world.
One hundred years later a prince comes and, hearing about the rumors about the sleeping beauty decides to go through the forest. The trees retract from him and he enters without a problem.
The guards were sleeping.
Everybody was sleeping.
The prince finally found the sleeping princess. When he approached to her, she wokes up. Everybody else wokes up too.
But this is not he end of the story as Perrault wrote it.
The happy couple marries and have two kids, but the prince doesn't want to introduce his wife to his parents. His mother is an ogress who likes to eat people. But after a while she founds his secret and tries to eat his wife and kids. At the end the son confronts his mother. She dies and he lives with his new family hapilly ever after.
Puss in Boots
This story starts with a death of the miller who had a mill, a donkey and a cat. Each one of his three sons got one of these. Yu can imagine the youngest, who got a cat, wasn't very happy.
Yet this was not an ordinary cat.
He built a false identity for his master by flattery, cheating, lying and threatening.
When the identity of so-called Marquiz de Carabas ned a hard evidence in form of real estate, the cat even challenged an ogre and managed to steal his posesions.
It was obvious this cat was worth much more than a mill.
So the millers son became a king and the cat his most valuable member of the court.
This fun and still very popular story raises some questions. Isn't the moral of Puss in Boots at least a bit questionable? In-debth article about this fairy tale deals exactly with this kind of questions:
Little Tom Thumb
This fairy tale is less well-known outside of France. It's actually a French version of Hansel and Gretel with elements of Jack and the Beanstalk. Little Tom Thumb is the youngest of seven boys, all children of poor woodcutter who decides to leave them in the woods because they gonna die of hunger anyway.
Thanks to Tom and white pebbles they safely return home but the second trip didn't pan out so well. Tom got bread crumbs instead of pebbles and boys couldn't find their way home anymore.
After long wondering through the forest they came to the house where a man-eating ogre lived. He wasn't at home, his daughter were already sleeping (with little crowns on their heads), but his wife was there and opened the door just to warn them not to come in.
They persuded her to take them in because they would die in the forest just before the ogre returned. He found them and decided to fatten them a bit before eating them.
Little tom Thumb noticed they were all put into the same bed and this bed was in the same room as the bed of seven ogre's daughters. So he waited to the dark and change the caps of the boys with the crowns of the girls what proved a life-saving trick for him and his brothers.
The ogre, who was pretty tipsy, came to the bedroom in the night, and without proper orientation decided to slaughter the kids without crowns - his own daughters.
Tom woke up the boys and they ran out of the house while the ogre and his wife slept. In the morning ogre noticed his mistake and started a pursuit with seven-league boots.
When he almost caught the boys, they hid under the rock and the ogre sat on the same rock to catch some breath. He fell asleep, so boys got a chance to escape to their home, but Tom had another idea.
He stole ogre's boots, returned to his house, persuaded his wife to give him all the tresures from the house (he told her the ogre was kidnapped by robbers) and made himself and his family very rich.
Tom later used seven-league boots many times. They earned him good money and a lot of favor among nobility.
This fairy tale is in English speaking world more known under Diamonds and toads title. It tells a story about two girls, sisters with different characters.
The nice sister is awarded for her kindness, the rude one is punished. Gues which one got a prince for husband!
Ricky of the Tuft
In my opinion this story is the most boring and predictable of all in this collection.
There was a queen who got a son who was extremely ugly, but very smart. He also had a gift to make other people smarter if he wanted. And there was another queen who had two daughter. The older was the prettiest and dummest girl in the kingdom. Her younger sister, on the other hand, was very ugly but clever and sensitive.
Both sisters attracted men. When the beauty of the first one can't prevail her stupidity anymore, everybody turned to her sister, who was a brilliant speaker.
After a while, Ricky fell in love in the picture of the beautiful sister and when he met her, he promised her to make her smarter if she promises to marry him. There was a catch. When she really became smarter, he forgot about her decision from the time of stupidity. She wanted to marry a handsome princess instead of Ricky.
Then Ricky told her he would become handsome too, if she only use her special power to make somebody beautiful if she loves him, she did exactly that. So two beautiful and smart people marry each other. The only unhappy person in this story was the ugly sister.
By far the most popular fairy tale in the world is best known in Perrault's version - with a fairy godmother, carriage made of pumpkin and glass slippers.
Cinderella's mother dies, her father remarries, so she got a step-mother and two step-sisters. Very soon Cinderella felt to the level of the lowest servant.
She was forced to sleep in the kitchen. After a while a prince decided to find a wife. so he trwos a great party and invites all the girls. Cinderella's sisters are going too. But Cinderella is not allowed. She doesn't have a proper dress anyway.
Then her fairy godmother appears and does all the best tricks.
Cinderella did everything to hide her identity.
Somehow she lost a slipper. The prince decided to find a lady who's foot will fit this slipper. She will be his wife.
He finds the next queen in Cinderella. Perrault's version is different from Grimm's in many ways. If we focus only on the ending, we find out cinderella is very forgiving. She even arranges to find two noble men for her step-sisters.
Little Red Riding Hood
The grandmother is sick and Red Riding Hood neds to bring her some food and wine.
She was told not to talk to strangers.
When she met the wolf, she forgot about the warnings.
While she was picking flowers, the wolf ran to her granny's house and ate her. Then he got in her bed, waiting for some fresh flesh.
After the most famous dialogue in fairy tale literature the wolf eats the girl.
There is no hunter or other rescuer in Perrault's Red Riding Hood!
A very rich man with bad reputation marries a young beautiful girl.
He is very mysterious.
One day he has to leave the castle. He give his wife the keys.
Among these keys there is one she must not use.
Believing he will never find out, she takes the key and opens the forbidden room.
Blue beard returns home, discovers he lack of loyalty and decides to kill her. But her brothers came to the castle soon enough to kill him and save her.
Beauty and the Beast
There was a rich merchant with three daughters. He lost almost all his money, so they had to move out of the city. They started living a very frugal life. The youngest daughter adapted.
Her elder sisters didn't.
Then a merchang got a good news. One of his ship was found and he went on another trip, promising to bring his daughters luxurious gifts. But the youngest didn't ant anything. Finally she said she would like to have a rose, because in the environment she is missing the roses most of all.
Merchant's trip was successful. On the way back a storm caught him. And he still didn't have a rose. He spent the night in a strange empty castle, where she found a rose in the garden.
Then a monster attacked him. The merchant could save his life only if one of his daughter si willing to live with the Beast in his castle.
The youngest daughter moved to the Beast's castle. At first she was afraid but slowly got affected by his kindness. They decided to marry. He changed his look into a handsome prince by nights and after a while she visited her old home to comfort her father. Her sisters were jealous for her happiness so they tried to destroy the bond between the Belle and the Beast.
They didn't. Their wickedness was punished. They became statues made of stone and the Beast was changed into a handsome prince for the rest of his life.
The king and the queen were very much in love with each other. Then he got involved in a war and had to leave her. She was already pregnant but none of them didn't know that. Soon she was lost in the forest and found herself in a strange land where everything was controled by a witch.
By coincidence she saved a life of a frog.
This frog was a fairy frog. It had magic powers. Limited, yet still with ability to help the queen.
And the princess, when she was born.
After a long and dangerous trip the magic frog found the king who still loved his lost queen and infomed him about the kid. The happy end follows.
The kind and the queen got two sons and a baby sister Rosette. At her birth the fairies told the queeen she might cause the death of her brothers, so Rosette's parents decided to lock her in a tower.
Years have passed, brothers still loved their baby sister and the king and the queen died. When the brothers became the ruler of the country immediately decided to free their sister.
Rosette was delighted with a view, especially when she saw a peacock. She declared she will marry a peacock king and nobody else.
Not knowing if such person even exists the brothers decided to find him and left Rosette in the castle. They really found the peacock king, showed him Rosette's portrait and he was immediately in love with her.
But they had to promise she is really as beautiful as her picture. Otherwise they shall die. They accepted the challenge and sent a letter to Rosette. She had to travel to the land of the peacock king.
Among her companions was a nurse who had her own plans. She arranged Rosette and her dog were thrown in the ocean while sleeping and dressed her own daughter in Rosetttte's gowns.
The imposter was still ugly and peacock king was very dissatisfied with his bride-to-be.
Fortunately, before his men killed the Rosette's brothers, the sea brought her to the beach.
An old man helped her to get to the castle in time.
The peacock king was delighted when he found out how beautiful is rosette in reality.
They all lived happily ever after.
The book Old Time Stories with the pictures by William Hearth Robinson is finished. Have a great time.
Hansel and Gretel is a widely popular fairy tale about two kids, their incompetent parents and a witch in the woods. It inspired numerous artistic works and Engelbert Humperdinck's opera is just one of them. The libretto of the opera was written by Adelheid Wette. The opera was popular enough to be published with libretto and musical notes in different languages on several occasions. This post deals with a book for kids where libretto is rewritten in prose and richly illustrated with pictures signed by Maria Louise Kirk.
Maria Louise Kirk (1860-1938) was a very prolific illustrator who is almost forgotten now. Yet she illustrated numerous classics like Pinocchio, Heidi, The Story of Hiawatha, At the Back of the North Wind, ... While she was never particularly favored by the critics, the audience always well accepted her works. It's only fair to present her pictures through blogs and other similar media, so we'll never forget such a talented artist.
The Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel roughly follows the basic plot of this classic fairy tale, but it's also adapted to the media, where music and movement play so important role. There are also several not so radical, yet still important changes in the story, which will be discussed a bit later. For now, let's summarize the Hansel and Gretel as Adelheid Wette presented it and accompany it with lovely pictures by M. L. Kirk:
Hansel and Gretel were home alone. Hansel had to make brooms and Gretel knit stockings. After a while, Hansel proposed to dance rather than work.
When their mother returned home she was very disappointed and angry. She accidentally overturns the container with milk. It looks they lost everything they had for dinner! so she sends the kids in the wood to berry some strawberries.
When the children left the house their father returns. He was very happy. He sold all the brooms and got good money for them. Then he asks where are the children and is horrified when his wife told him they left to the part of the forest where the witches had been seen.
Hansel and Gretel were still carefree. He is picking the berries, she is making a wreath of flowers. They are hungry and eat a few berries. One by one they ate them all. They remember they should return home with a full basket but it's getting dark.
They become frightened. Hansel tries to console his sister but soon he becomes afraid of the shadows as well.
When the night falls, they fall to sleep hugging each other. Angels pass by sleeping children and nothing bad happens.
Hansel and Gretel woke up in the morning. A fairy sprinkled them with dew. They are still sleepy. They are hungry too. There is a house nearby. It looks it's made of gingerbread.
Kids eat some ginger cake and the witch invites them to eat some more. When the mood of the kids improves, the witch comes out of the house. She grabs Hansel and with a help of the spell take both as prisoners. Then she prepares an oven and orders Gretel to look in. The kids push the witch in the oven.
Kids celebrate their freedom, the oven explodes and more kids appear around Hansel and Gretel. They were all changed into gingerbread figures. When all the kids dance happily the father and mother of Hansel and Gretel appear. Everybody is happy.
What are the main differences between 'classic' (written by Grimm brothers) and 'opera' (written by Adelheid Wette) Hansel and Gretel? If you want a detailed analysis of the story with summary, interpretations, symbolism and historical development, it's probably best to start here:
But we'll try to expose only the crucial points:
- Characters are different. Parents love their kids and are very worried when they don't return from the wood. We are dealing with a mother, not step-mother in this case and she is alive at the end of the story. Hansel and Gretel are careless and pretty happy for the most of the time. There are additional characters (angels, children, transformed into a ginger cake, ...) too. The only constant is the witch.
- Family situation is different. While they are obviously confronted with poverty in opera, they are not really pushed to the edge when some family members start weighing their own survival at the expense of the others. Kids are not left in the woods but are sent to get some strawberries. They stay there for their own irresponsibility, not thanks to the conspiracy of their parents.
- The relationship between brother and sister is much more balanced. In Grimms' version Hansel takes all the responsibility at first and Gretel becomes the strong link after the encounter with the witch, but here both work more as a team, sometimes one and sometimes the other taking the lead.
- Religious references are different. Instead of the birds in Hansel and Gretel by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, we meet angels in the version written by Adelheid Wette and Engelbert Humperdinck. Angles serve as their protectors through the night but have less of an impact than the birds in the Grimms' story.
- The happy ending of the story is not connected with financial consequences. The family is obviously happy but we don't give any clue about treasures which were found in the classic fairy tale.
We could go on and on with the minor differences but the main ones are probably here. If you think there is anything more to add, please write a comment!
A frog he would a wooing go / Frog Went A-courting
This old folk song is telling a simple and playful story with a tragic end. There's a frog who wants to marry a mouse. Together with a rat, his friend, they visit Miss Mousey. Everything looks good until cat with her kittens arrive ...
Illustrators loved this song for centuries and there are numerous versions available on-line, with Randolph Caldecott's A Frog He Would-A-wooing Go probably being the most well-known of all. We'll look at another successful vintage artist this time: Henry Louis Stephenson.
Here is the story about the frog who tried to marry a mouse in pictures:
A frog decided to go courting. He wants to marry a mouse. His mother is not happy about this decision yet is determined.
He put on his best suit and his best hat.
His friend, a rat, went with him.
They knock at the Mousey's door.
She was at home, spinning.
She served them some beer - for good cheer.
They played a song - but not too long.
The frog complaint about the cold.
Mousey sat at the piano and sang him a song.
Then the cat and the kitten entered.
Then the cat and the kitten entered.
The cat got the rat.
The kitten got the mouse.
The frog jumped out of the window...
...just to be eaten by a white duck!
This was the end of the rat, the mouse and the frog.
This book was first published in New York in 1865 in unknown number of copies. If we speculate by comparison with other books of the same illustrator in the same era, the number could be only about one hundred copies.
Originals of this illustrations are at Harvard University.
Maybe just a few more words about the technique. As we can see, Mr. Stephens decided to use several tricks to create the feeling of space with simple line drawing. He was definitely one of the best artists of his time, yet very poorly treated for at least two reasons:
illustration was not considered a 'real' art and it was absolutely inferior to paintings in oils or aquarels;
despite the superb technique of illustration the technology of printing didn't allow to execute many details from originals, so the printed results were very bad copies of originals.
With this post we try to pay at least some tribute to H. L. Stephens (1824-1882), one of the best illustrators of his time, who should be treated similar to his temporaries J. J. Grandville or John Tenniel, both, just like him, masters of anthropomorhised animal characters.