Friday, January 11, 2013

Only in a Fairy Tale, PART 1

Only in a Fairy Tale:

Discerning the Form through the Art of Illustration

This will be a 5 part series based on my final project for my course this past fall on the Brothers Grimm and fairy tales.  Each post will take on a certain aspect of the fairy tale as a genre, and unpack it by looking at a specific illustration.  Hope you enjoy and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the illustrations and my analysis!

Part 1

Once Upon a Time…

      Fairy tales inhabit the world of “once upon a time”.  They are not bound up by history or specifics of culture or the intricacies of clock time, they dwell in the land of “faerie” and have rules of their own.  Within the world of fairy tales, we begin in a place that mirrors reality, but then as the journey sets off, usually through the dark woods, we enter a space where anything can happen, mothers and fathers can abandon children, wolves can devour you alive, and witches in confectionary cottages will bake you for dinner.  “Once upon a time” is a sort of “dream time” or “literary time”; it is outside of time, “upon” or above it.  It is a place where time itself breaks, the rules of time do not exist, and real time no longer is.  In this way, it resembles closely the idea of Kairos, moments where “clock time” seems to open up and no longer exist, where time falls away.

     In Anton Pieck’s illustration for Hansel and Gretel, we see this magical house, amid a callous, dark forest.  Shadowy figures loom in the background, as a warning to the reader that perhaps this place is too good to be true; unfortunately Hansel and Gretel are not privy to this knowledge until it is almost too late.  The witch’s house dwells in a time of its own, and the rules of reality, the fact that a house could not really stand made of mere sweets, do not hold.  In Derek Stratton’s illustration, ideas of time and different levels of reality jump out at the viewer.  Hansel and Gretel stand at the foreground, balanced on the threshold between the dark forest and the tempting candy land.  The witch stands as observer, more than that as a god figure of this realm of time that she dictates, with the peppermint hypnotically dangling, she controls each step that the siblings take and whether or not they will survive.  That is until the wit and cunning of a real world child supplants this “once upon a time” goddess.