Thursday, June 4, 2009

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
translated and illustrated by Wanda Gag

Coward-McCann, 1938

When you look back at the 30s and 40s, it is so cool to think that without movies and computers and advertising, all the world's visual entertainment for children ~ for the most part ~ came in the form of books. The wonder and mystery they must have held, opening up worlds of the imagination that had previously been untouched. Holding those titles now in your hand... books that have been around the block, read hundreds of times... you almost wish the books could tell a different story of all the places they've been and readers who've loved them. My goodness, wouldn't that be a thing of wonder?In the midst of my momma drama last summer, I found this one tucked on the shelf of a little junk store two towns over from my mom's place in Virginia. The small size and the layered frays on the corners just kill me. It is the perfect present for a grownup palm or the little hands of a child wanting to see. It has the look and the feel of all the things I love about this hobby, not to mention it was inked by one Ms. Wanda Gag, so you know it's simply darling.

It's also a translation of the original Grimm tale, so it includes all the wicked tidbits that have since been omitted... the prick of blood, the supposed eating of the girl's heart...

Once upon a time, in the middle of winter, the snowflakes were falling like feathers from the sky. At a castle window framed in ebony sat a young Queen working at her embroidery, and as she was stitching away and gazing at the snowflakes now and then, she pricked her finger and three little drops of blood fell down upon the snow. And because the color red looked so beautiful there on the snow she thought to herself, "Oh if I only had a little child as white as snow, as rosy red as blood, and with hair as ebon black as the window frame."

We all know what happens next. She gets her wee one, and then dies shortly thereafter leaving the girl behind. As the story goes, her wicked stepmother queen has a little pow pow with her mirror and finds out she is not as hot as she thinks. The rest is history.

We love Wanda Gag at my house. Hers are some of the oldest picture books around, but she never fails to enrapture my son through her stories and incredible black and white drawings. Take note of the mirror match up between the peacock and the queen. Gorgeous.

Also by:
Millions of Cats
The Funny Thing
Nothing At All

6 comments:

Amanda said...

Thanks for recognizing this wonderful gem! I absolutely love Wanda Gag tales. Kids today don't seem to be impressed with the artwork, but I love her simple pencil drawings. They are so detailed a completely stylish.

Primrose said...

Such a fascinating post! I agree the original and darker versions of fairy tales are so much better. Even as a child we delighted in them more than the toned down ones. I hate reading the new versions when nothing awful ever happens to any of the characters! They lose so much power and interest. My daughter always likes the lurid bits the best as well!

Cissy said...

Millions of Cats is one of my kids' favorites; though it is a little odd, it is also curiously funny. I want to find this Snow White version. Your description (and commentary) is outstanding and I'm itching to search out a copy.

Have you heard of Marie Hall Ets? I often think of her in the same moment as Gag. I'm always pleasantly surprised that her simple drawings and narrative capture the interests of my 21st century tykes.

Fuse #8 said...

As I recall, the story behind that book is that it came out around the same time as the Disney film of the same name. Librarians started pushing it like mad because they already didn't like the Disneyfication of the story. How little has changed, eh?

Gail said...

Another Snow White version with the "iron shoes heated in the fire" part is the one illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert with anatomical and historical accuracy. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I love this post and all the images you submitted with it. Though I must say that these are not ink sketches as everyone is saying. Wanda Gag is know as a print maker. So she most likely spent a ton of time scratching the little details in a plate or wood block.

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