Posts Tagged ‘fairy tale’

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is tail. I love a happy ending. Perhaps that is common to my fair sex, or perhaps it is simply an antidote to the Trials and Tribulations of life. I have my stash of Chick Flicks in the closet and a series of favorite novels that I read repeatedly for their comfortable reassurance that, despite the aforementioned T & T, people can triumph or at least find some version of happiness in the end. I need that reassurance regularly, and since conventional Religion doesn’t do it for me, I’ve found my solace in stories. I’ve been wanting to write a post on the subject of Why I Love Fairy Tales for a while now. As I’ve been updating websites, writing artist statements and over and over mentioning ‘fairy tales,’ I’ve watched myself, at the same time, cringing. I think it’s because I fear that Fairy Tales are getting a bad, or at least diminished, rap these days, and I am a little wiggly about associating myself with them…as if it were somehow shameful or childish, or a death-knell for my career as a Serious Artist. But then I stop and remember, thankfully, that fairy tales have been around a lot longer than Disney, Saturday morning cartoons and the brightly-colored art on lunch pails and school notebooks. Fairy tales, according to scholars, have been around since the beginning of humankind. They are the repository, in story form, of the wisdom of our species about Life. They are the archetypes of human behavior (to use the Jungian term), morals and consequences, hopes and dreams, and simple humor at our follies. Originally, they were meant to entertain (as the cleaned-up versions still do today), but they were also meant to instruct, and sometimes to warn about consequences. They were told to audiences of all ages, and children were raised with the grimmer versions of the predecessors of the Grimms’ fairy tales, and took it in stride. No coddling or dumbing down needed there. Terry Windling and Ellen Datlow, in the introduction to A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales write,

“Most people think that fairy tales are stories meant for very young children, but hundred of years ago tales of magic were loved by folks of all ages. The fairy tales we know today–like “Cinderella,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” and all the rest–used to be darker, stranger, and more complex, until this century. Then they were turned into children’s tales, banished to the nursery (as J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings once pointed out) like furniture adults have grown tired of and no longer want. The stories were changed and simplified when they were rewritten for very young readers. And it’s these sweet and simple versions that most of us know today.”

The Jungian scholar, Marie-Louise Von Franz (An Introduction to the Psychology of Fairy Tales) states,

“Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic process. Therefore their value for the scientific investigation of the unconscious exceeds that of all other material. They represent the archetypes in their simplest, barest and most concise form.”

This is all good, and material worth giving much attention to. And, as I said at the beginning, happy endings are always a welcome quality. But why I really appreciate fairy tales is the unspoken implication that there is much more going on down here on Planet Earth, in our everyday mundane lives, than we usually are aware of. There is a Magic much greater than the Little Me (Eckhart Tolle’s term for the personal identity) can understand or manipulate. There is Mystery, we are not alone and there is Guidance, if only we will look for and be receptive to it. These age-old stories say that there will always be cause for hope, and that the Journey is worth every ounce of courage it extracts from us. For a person, such as myself, who has always felt that I am ‘down here without a map,’ this reassurance is a balm, and a career’s worth of inspiration for imagery. Fairy tales as subject matter may seem trite in this day and age, but stories about the patterns of our human journey seems like a subject worthy of my continued attention. Who cares if it might be poo-pooed in the hoity-toity Art World? Ok, I’d like to have it all, but when it comes right down to it…I need fairy tales. Fairy tales tell me, same as this Cowboy Wisdom quote,

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”

“Away”    (watercolor, pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is perennial.

What’s this disappearing blogger been up to? Well, lots of art and story-related things: sending out query letters and competition entries, finishing the new manuscript for my second author and illustrator storybook, boning up on the illustration world’s rules and rituals, browsing fairy tales and children’s books, not-nearly-enough painting and… stacking firewood. Stacking firewood? Yes…time away from the studio can be as important as time in the studio, especially when it will keep me warm in my studio this Winter. Gives the eye and the imagination a bit of a rest too.

But I digress…

Ever wonder why fairy tales are such a perennial favorite? Perhaps it’s because, in their essence, fairy tales are talking about the Journey of Life. They are telling stories using ‘archetypes’ (i.e. The Lover, the Hero, the Wise Man) that everyone can relate to, deep down. Some fairy tales are silly, some magical, and some can be a little dark. (But isn’t life that way too sometimes?)

I am a big fan of fairytales and archetypal stories in general. Could it be the amateur psychologist side of my personality? Fairy tales are a satisfying, thought-provoking read, and I suspect that they plant tiny seeds in the psyche about Life on Planet Earth far more frequently than the latest run-of-the-mill story about teeth brushing or new puppies. Fairy tales are much more than entertainment…and they can be read on more than one level. That is precisely why they have endured and are found in every culture. Fairy tales are a slice of life, all dressed up and ready for magic.

Take the fairy tale, “The Handless Maiden,” for example.

I read my first version of “The Handless Maiden” tale in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ popular book, Women Who Run with the Wolves.  With a story that resonates deeply, it is not surprising that similar tales are found worldwide. “The Girl with Silver Hands,” collected by the Brothers Grimm, “The Armless Maiden” and “The Girl Without Hands” are just a few examples.

With a woman atypically cast in the leading role, all versions of the tale are every bit the archetypal journey of a woman growing into her own strength and autonomy. There are difficult obstacles, a King and his castle, helping fairies/angels vs the Devil/Mystery Stranger (depending upon who’s telling it), several forests, a garden, and eventually, the traditional happy ending.

However, there is, as Midori Snyder writes, “a strange hiccup in the middle.” Rather than going from a bad beginning to happily-ever-after, our heroine is cast out once again and forced to fend for herself for a very long time. We thought that marriage to the King and his magnanimous gift of custom-made silver hands for his handless wife would be enough to make everyone content! But no, the Handless Maiden (now a Handless Queen with a baby) must re-enter the forest and find her own way, patiently and faithfully, to that happy ending. (The King is elsewhere on his own seven-year archetypal healing journey, thank goodness.) Of course, it all works out beautifully in the long run…it is a fairy tale, after all.

This tale is a favorite in Jungian and Women’s Studies circles, and there is a lot to read between the lines and ponder. Besides Women Who Run with the Wolves, Gertrud Mueller Nelson’s Here All Dwell Free: Stories to Heal the Wounded Feminine and Endicott Studio’s own Midori Snyder offer deeper looks (here) at “The Handless Maiden” tale.

“The Girl with Silver Hands”  (watercolor, pen & ink, digital type)     I’ve shown this image before (here), but now it’s been designed into a book cover. Read the News section below and you’ll understand why…


Another enterprising lover of illustrated books has just announced the debut of her new blog project, Uncovered Cover Art: A Sketchbook of Reimagined Children’s BooksIntended to be “…a celebration of creativity, children’s literature, and art,” the site is already a visual feast!

Heidi Kellenberger, the originator, writes that the blog is designed for…

  • Artists who want to show off their passion for illustrating children’s books.
  • Art directors looking for artists, wondering if the work in Hot New Thing’s portfolio will transfer to children’s book illustration.
  • Agents on the lookout for new talent.
  • The children’s book lovers who stay up late, imagining the faces of Harry Potter,  Katniss Everdeen, and Little Red Riding Hood.

To celebrate the site’s launch, Heidi will award the three most voted-for artists with a copy of the book,  Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration by Dilys Evans.

If you know someone who really should submit to Uncovered Cover Art (You, maybe?), please pass the news! If you’d like to enter the contest…or cast a vote for my own entry, posted July 28th (shown above, and thank you so much!!)…or vote for one of the other book covers, visit http://uncoveredcoverart.wordpress.com/

To vote, click the ‘Leave a Comment’ link below your favorite book cover on the Uncovered Cover Art site, then click one of the stars (from excellent to very poor) above the Comment form.

This is what the voting stars will look like!

Hurry…voting ends August 30th, 2011!

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