A few years ago, I borrowed a library copy of The Hobbit illustrated by Alan Lee. On the back of the jacket was an illustration of Bilbo joining the dwarves in front of the Green Dragon pub which was not included inside. Oh, well, I decided to spring for a second-hand copy just for the pictures and ordered on line what I thought was the right edition. When it arrived, lo and behold, its jacket was different. No Green Dragon. Phooey. To my amusement, when I searched for the illustration this summer, it turned up at a website with exactly my story of disappointment about the Green Dragon jacket illustration. That set me thinking about the difference between fan fiction and fan illustration.
Picturing a World
Blog post alert: Henry Mayhew's Street Traders reproduces a few of the engravings in London Labour and the London Poor of men and women who made a living on the streets in the Victorian era and quotes the text that accompanies each. The passage that accompanies this picture, for instance, begins, "I am a seller of birds'-nesties, snakes, slow-worms, adders, "effets"–lizards is their common name–hedgehogs (for killing black beetles), frogs (for the French – they eats 'em), and snails (for birds) – that's all I sell in the Summertime."
A post by James Gurney on Painting Fantasy on Location immediately brought to mind Kathleen Jennings' Floating Islands. I've also just finished rereading A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones in which a pocket world the size of a giant fortress orbits a planet in its own universe while being connected by magic to its counterpart in another. And then there's Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Petit Prince, surely the most delicious story and artwork ever set on an asteroid. In short, the whole idea of tiny floating worlds has set me thinking about how to approach a story set on one.
Blog post alert: A post by artist Andrea McLean on Los's Light and the Swedenborg Window struck me forcibly. William Blake figures into Liz Williams' Fallow Sisters novels, and she has one of her heroines seen into a magical otherworld through a bubble in a glass window pane. Magical panes also figure into one of my favorite children's books, Diana Wynne Jones's Enchanted Glass. Concentric circles, moreover, are readily recognizable as diagrams of the cosmos. A lantern, the sun, the cosmos, all three—why not? It's how a poet thinks.
For a zoomable high-rez version of the image (well worth viewing), click here.
Blog post alert: 19C American Women and Labor Day by garden historian and blogger Barbara Wells Sarudy summarizes the evolution of Labor Day as a holiday and women's struggles within the union movement. Her first illustration, Norman Rockwell's 1943 Rosie the Riveter, is surely the most iconic female worker in modern history. Remember, the worker is worthy of HER pay. Happy Labor Day.
Website alert: I think I have posted a link to the digitized Panorama of the Thames before, but it seems worth doing again for anyone who needs a soothing video trip down the Thames River in 1829. You can go upstream or down between Richmond and Westminster. Perfect escape from the news two centuries later and a great resource for historical fiction.
It's always a delight when a writer in a well-ploughed field comes up with an inventive twist. I think that's what happened when Liz Williams introduced her wose character, Hob, in Blackthorn Winter. Once upon a time Hob was human, but he has been transformed into an animated figure made of sticks and is being chased by otherworldly dogs. He reminds me of Charles Vess's illustrations of Charles de Lint's Apple Tree Man as well as corn dollies, the infamous Wicker Man, and, of course, woodwoses. Yet as far as I can tell, he is Williams' own contribution to the world of the folkloric imagination. If anyone knows of another analogue or origin, please leave a comment. Meanwhile, brava, Liz Williams!
Website alert: To supply a detail in a story, I was looking at images of street sellers in The Cries of London at the British Library. The playbill seller interested me, but I didn't see any way to download the page from the British Library site. A quick web search led me to this reproduction of the same plate at the Sound and History site—and, wow! all kinds of useful material for the historical novelist!
Ottilia Adelborg (1855–1936) is another of the Scandinavian female artists who was an almost exact contemporary of the real (and the fictional!) Jeanette. She studied at the Swedish Royal Academy at the same time Jeanette was in Paris and may have studied in France later herself. She became a children's book writer and illustrator. The English-language edition of her Clean Peter is available online.
She also illustrated other writer's books, such as The Wonderful Adventure of Nils Holgersson by Selma Lagerlöf, for which this watercolor is a preliminary design. I haven't read the Lagerlöf book (which is available in a new translation), but this picture of a daydreaming boy and a tiny figure climbing out of the chest could suggest a story just by itself, don't you think? Or prompt a poem about the nature of imagination?
It's the glasses. Dark glasses, no less! The medieval iconography of Moses with horns is goofy enough, but these spectacles are irresistible. The question is, What to do with the picture besides use it to expound an oddity in art history? Maybe let it provide a model for some imaginary wizard? I like the idea of substituting a goat's face for the man's.
Incidentally, the Hagenau Bible, from which the picture comes, also illustrates a moment in publishing history, the move into mass-produced books through a rationalized system within scriptoria. Might the head scribe of a magical scriptorium be a demon?