Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Brothers Grimm ~ Edith H. Tarcov ~ Edward Gorey
Scholastic, 1973

Right now at the McNay Art Museum here in San Antonio, there is an exhibit called Elegant Enigmas highlighting the work of Edward Gorey. The show was put together by the Brandywine River Museum in Pennsylvania... (a museum I love and am mildly obsessed with as Andrew Wyeth is my all time favorite artist ever... if you wanna read a fascinating book that illustrates exactly how to raise children to be creative spirits while at the same time screwing them up royally, check out Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life. The manner in which NC Wyeth raised his boys it utterly mesmerizing. Part Peter Pan... part Peyton Place... but anyways, I digress.)

I love Gorey, and before seeing this show I never quite realized that he worked in actual size... so if you've seen his wee books, the true drawings are carbon copy. I wish they would've included some of his pens... it's mind blowing to imagine someone working with such tiny lines and not losing their marbles.

Now, the catalogue for the show mentions that Gorey often attempted to sell his books to publishers as children's books, but editors collectively thought his concepts to be far too esoteric for children. Thus, why the bulk of his work for children was actually authored by someone else. As I've mentioned before, I've just recently begun digging up these titles, and despite the protective nature of his editors, they still all seem wonderfully spooky to me. Granted in this case, I find it near impossible for anyone to do Rumpelstiltskin without it being creepy. The title character himself even in words is pretty ick... a little troll-like man... a baby snatcher... shoot, my son even squirms at the Muppet version we have on VHS.

That said... we all know the tale of miller and his beautiful daughter who he sells down the river to a king. The miller lies and tells the royalty that his daughter can spin straw into gold and her fate is sealed. Under threat of death to loom the king treasure, she makes a deal with a strange little man who says he will turn her straw to gold in exchange for her first born. Fast forward to the birth of the child, and the man tells her she make keep the baby if she can guess his name. Ugh. However, all is foiled for the little wretch when he can't keep his songs to himself...

Tonight my cakes I bake.
Tonight my beer I make.
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
The queen's little baby I take.
Lucky I'll go as lucky I came
For Rumpelstiltskin is my name.

Thus ending what can only be a horrible nightmare for the queen. Imagine, having to give your child to a horrible dwarf who will do god knows what with him. Gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it. All the same, we do need to sprinkle a little controlled terror into our children's lives every now and again, and the illustrations here are impeccable. Really, if you are within a hundred miles of San Antonio between now and September, do yourself a favor and check the show out. Total genius that man, and to get so close to his stuff is a true honor.

Also by:
Sam and Emma
The Dwindling Party


Jennifer said...

Shriek! I saw those pictures and wap! realized that's the edition I read as a kid! Now I get to go track it down...

Burgin Streetman said...

awesome! i love those connections!

Unknown said...

I had this book as a child.
What is not mentioned here is the fact the book came with a record, with voice actors reading the dialogue. Rumplestilskin has a wonderful high pitched, yet gravelly voice. Listening to him singing the song shown in the article is quite memorable.
I also pity the poor messenger, who has to search through the kingdom trying to find every name he can.
I know it has little to do with the art of our creepy, and much welcomed, good friend , Mister Gorey, but the record along with the pictures made this a most beloved book from when I was little.

Anonymous said...

Judy Graubert of "Electric Company" fame was The Miller's Daughter.

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