Howard Pyle ~ pictures by Trina Schart Hyman
Little Brown, 1973
Renowned for his artwork and written tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur, this particular story was plucked from a larger collection of Pyle's entitled The Wonder Clock (24 stories for each hour of the day) and reimagined in pictures by Ms. Hyman. The tale is a classic, and I can tell you from experience that little boys go crazy for Trina's style. There is a very masculine feel to her drawings while at the same time maintaining an edge of sensuality that I'm sure children find intriguing. The women are raven-haired and gorgeous and the men brawny and sly, and her pictures feature spooky elements like wild animals and monsters and enchanted creatures. King Stork is no exception.
When a common drummer lad gives a lift across the river to the King of the Storks (in disguise, of course), he is gifted a magic whistle that will help him when he's in need. And so the story goes...
By and by he came to the town over the hill, and there he found great bills stuck all over the walls. They were all of them proclamations. And this is what they said: The princess of that town was as clever as she was pretty; that was saying a great deal, for she was the handsomest in the whole world. ("Phew! But that is a fine lass for sure and certain," said the drummer.) So it was proclaimed that any lad who could answer a question the princess would ask, and would ask a question the princess could not answer, and would catch the bird that she would be wanting, should have her for his wife and half of the kingdom to boot. ("Hi! But here is luck for a clever lad," says the drummer.) But whoever should fail in any of the three tasks should have his head chopped off as sure as he lived. ("Ho! But she is a wicked one for all that," says the drummer.)
Now, never has there been a storybook hero who wasn't up to the challenge of proving his manhood. With the help of the Stork King's whistle, he wins the princess (who is actually a witch) and helps her overcome her evil ways with a switch and a jug of milk (don't ask).
In between, there are old hags and ravens and wolves and dragons and all kinds of magical business and gory slayings. Enchanting and fantastic and a little bit creepy. Exactly the sort of story my son goes wild for. Warning: Some people online have said feminists would go nuts on this story over the switching at the end, but considering Hyman was a pretty vocal feminist herself, I don't see any issue with an evil, murdering witch/shape-shifting wolf getting a wee bit of sense beat into her. But that's just me.
How Six Found Christmas