Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gustaf Tenggren and the art of fairy tale

One of the factors to always keep in mind when studying fairy tale is that illustration has a profound impact upon how we absorb the tales. While traditionally considered an oral form, fairy tale really has a richer, much more tangible, literary heritage and as time went on, provided us with Walter Cranes, Edmund Dulacs and Arthur Rackhams who showed that illustration is just as important in storytelling. The illustration is simply as significant as the words - how Beauty looks or the style of boot Puss wears will be remembered.

Many children came to fairy tale via the Golden Books and there's an excellent little piece on Gustaf Tenggren here, beautifully illustrated (just look at Cinderella's golden dress). Tenggren spent time at Disney before going on to put his stamp on the 'look' of Golden Books.

There's a tendency in academic or 'grown-up' editions of fairy tale to skip illustration. Thankfully, this isn't universal and yes, there are practical reasons sometimes for foregoing the pictures, but in understanding how fairy tale operates, don't overlook illustration. There's a skill to reading a picture, but it can, as the saying goes, be worth a thousand words.

(Later note: Not that I advocate this, but taking a typewriter to a lecture to take notes... priceless.)

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