Harvested

HarvestedA review of Garth Nix’s “Hansel’s Eyes” in A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Aladdin Paperbacks, New York)

By Derek Newman-Stille

In “Hansel’s Eyes”, Garth Nix’s re-telling of the Hansel and Gretel tale, the two siblings cope with parents who are constantly trying to get rid of them. Set in a modern urban environment, Hansel and Gretel generally cope with these attempts at abandonment by bringing maps, compasses, water, and food. However, when their ‘hagmother’ decides to use chloroform on them, they wake up in an abandoned part of the city, run down due to economic decay.

Lured into a video game store that is the only thing still functioning in the abandoned parts of the city, Hansel and Gretel are abducted by a witch to be harvested for their organs and sold piece-by-piece to wealthy members of society. 

Nix transforms the original tale of hunger and cannibalism into a modern re-visioning of wealth disparity and the treatment of the poor as disposable commodities. Nix points to the issues with the current economic system in its exploitation of the bodies of the economically oppressed in order to make further wealth for the rich, but rather than exploiting the labour of these bodies, he makes this bodily deprivation literal, illustrating the dangers in de-valuing the lives of people in poverty and elevating the lives of the wealthy. Nix illustrates that we are already living in a cannibalistic society that feeds off of bodies in poverty through exploitation, funnelling the excess of wealth to a smaller and smaller population. 

The connection between organ harvesting and the Hansel and Gretel tale is made more explicit by portraying the witch as blind and wanting new eyes. Despite the ableist potentials of this tale by presenting a woman with disabilities as the villain (as so many fairy tales do), Nix creates a complex tale of the consumptive narrative of modern capitalism, making Hansel’s eyes just another part of the system that consumes bodies in order to benefit the wealthy and powerful. In this case, the power represented is magic and its seductive quality is illustrated by Nix in his portrayal of the allure of magic for Gretel and the danger of her forgetting where she came from in order to access this new level of influence and potency. 

To discover more about Garth Nix, visit http://www.garthnix.com 

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The Sweet Taste of Mortality

The Sweet Taste of Mortality

A review of Jackson Pearce’s Sweetly (Little, Brown and Company, 2011).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Hansel and Gretel is a tale of hunger and displacement. Focussing on the two children losing their home due to hunger and eating of a witch’s house and inspiring her to try to eat them, the tale is one where a loss of home and hunger are intertwined. Jackson Pearce sets her Hansel and Gretel revision in small town America where populations dwindle as people search for homes in areas where they can get work and where the economy is starving. 

Her brother and sister team are re-named Ansel and Gretchen and they end up moving into a small town candy shop owned by a young woman named Sophia. Sophia has been blamed with the loss of young women who leave each year to seek work in larger cities and she is ostracised because she is seen to be responsible. In this blame game, Jackson Pearce points to the other side of the fairy tale, the side of gossip and the tales that spread through small towns as people seek to find people to blame for the social issues that occur in their town. The town is also living its own “once upon a time” by constantly trying to portray itself as the quaint but prosperous community it once was, glorifying its past to hide from the issues in its present.

Where the town is glorifying the past, Ansel, Gretchen, and Sophia are all trying to hide from their pasts, changing themselves from the people they once were to avoid the threat of traumatic memories. They carry traumas of the past with them as they seek to re-make themselves and find new possible ways of interacting with the world, wanting to change themselves. 

Yet, this is not just a tale of economies in small town America. The woods are places full of horrors and places where no one wants to wander off or get lost. Pearce’s tale is filled with magic, but it is also filled with horror and fear. Ansel, Gretchen, and Sophia are all linked by a desire to make things better, but they are also linked by a shared fear, an uncertainty about the future and the threats that proliferate around them.

To discover more about Jackson Pearce, visit her website at http://jackson-pearce.com/sweetly/ 

The Art of Hansel and Gretel’s Witch

The Art of Hansel and Gretel’s Witch
By Derek Newman-Stille

Hansel and Gretel was a tale published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Hansel and Gretel is a tale of hunger and candy. It is a tale of the conflict between youth and old age – two children cast out by their family and a witch who wants to consume youth.

 

 

Derek Stratton – Hansel and Gretel

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Derek Stratton uses the body of the witch itself as a framing technique, placing her house and the children within her cloak, affixing the children within the witch’s stomach, which is where her cannibalistic impulse wants to place them. The witch holds a candy dangling from her hand on a line like a fishing line, illustrating the role of her luring the children in.

Stratton situates the house itself in the witch’s belly, situating it as a symbolic representation of hunger. The house itself is relatively simple, with few colours. The candy in this case is gingerbread with few drops of colour on the icing. The house has a candy cane beside it and some lollypops in front. By having a very simple house, the focus is not on the candy itself, which often reads as a symbol of greed. Instead, the focus is on the predatory quality of the witch and on the hunger of the children.

The house itself is surrounded by idyllic, light greenery, however, this idyllic scene is surrounded by dark woods without leaves which morph into the cloak of the witch. This alternation of light and dark, innocence and corruption is played with in the image with the centre of the image being bright and the edges fading away into the frightening dark of the woods. The macabre quality of this image also situates the children standing above a ground filled with the corpses of other children. They walk toward a teddy bear, evoking innocence, while also underlying the idea that this teddy bear, like the house itself, is a lure, meant to corrupt innocence.

Childhood and old age are contrasted in this image with the older woman looking down at the children with hunger, evoking her hunger for youth. The witch’s face is situated at the top of the image, eclipsing everything below and the children are portrayed as innocents, holding hands in her shadow.

Derek Stratton is a concept artist at Telltale Games whose work can be seen at https://www.artstation.com/artist/sarsipious101

 

Ana Juan Gascó – Roundabout The Witch

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Ana Juan Gascó’s witch embodies all of the predatory qualities of the spider. Rather than luring children into her home, Gasco illustrates that the witch’s home, like the spider’s, is the web. Webbing hangs down in front of this witch’s body on webbing, holding candy at its tips. Her hat becomes, itself, a form of house with its peaks representing windows. Witch and house are blended together, and the witch’s body becomes the source of the lure for the children.

The candy hanging from the witch’s hat varies from ginger bread to bonbons to candy canes. Both children reach toward a single candy cane, evoking a dual image of both competition for treats or, potentially, an older brother helping to bring candy to his sister, for whom the candy is out of reach. The expressions of the children are blank, allowing for multiple interpretations of their intentions and distancing the viewer from the emotions of the children. Our entire focus is directed toward the witch and her surplus of expression, illustrating all of its predatory potential. She looks down with patient hunger, entwining her clawed fingers. The witch’s clothing is one solid cloak of black fabric, bringing the viewer’s attention up to the witch’s face and hands to focus the viewer on her gestures.

Rather than emaciated figures, these children are depicted as plump and well-fed, contrasting with the canonical myth of the children as starving and cast out of their home by their parents.

Ana Juan Gasco (born 1961) is a Spanish artist, illustrator, and painter. You can explore her website at www.anajuan.net


Laura Barrett – The Wicked Witch Has Caged Hansel Whilst Gretel Sobs

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Laura Barrett’s illustration of Hansel and Gretel is done entirely in silhouettes, which has the potential to obscure essential features like facial gestures, however, Barrett effectively uses the position of the body to convey emotion and intent. The Witch is portrayed walking with a cane and with her finger cocked in the direction of Hansel with a come with me gesture. The witch’s features are otherwise innocent, with a shawl over her head and a voluminous dress lending a sense of innocence to her. However, her positioning in front of the cage holding Hansel conveys her cruelty.

Hansel is depicted sitting casually and without expression in his cage, hanging from a tree. He is contrasted with his sister Gretel on the other side of the house, who is depicted weeping. This conveys gendered assumptions about masculinity and femininity, with the male child depicted stoically while the female figure is portrayed as emotional. Birds are depicted above Hansel’s cage, further reinforcing his captivity by portraying him in the birdcage while birds are portrayed outside of the cage.

The entire image is surrounded by thick woods, framing the house as a pretended sanctuary amongst the confusion of the woods. The silhouetted quality of the house allows the reader to project their imagined candy upon the house. The only candy-like features of the house are the drippings at the sides of the house that resemble icing on a gingerbread house. The house conveys innocence with large open windows with light shining through them.

Situating the children on either side of the house conveys a sense of separation between them, pulled apart by the house and by the witch, who similarly stands between them. While Hansel looks directly at the witch, Gretel is portrayed looking away from the house, avoiding the horrors within, and yet Gretel is the saviour of the tale, the person who rescues her brother from the witch.

Laura Barrett is an illustrator from South East London who focuses on silhouette illustrations. You can explore her other fairy tale illustrations at http://laurabarrett.co.uk/The-Guardian-Great-Fairytales

 

Scott Gustafson – Hansel and Gretel and the Witch Rough Drawing

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Scott Gustafson portrays a Hansel and Gretel with tiny eyes and blushed cheeks mirroring those of Precious Moments statues. Although these figures are chubby rather than emaciated, hungry children, their poverty is illustrated by the ragged condition of their clothing, patched together and frayed. The patches of their clothing brings attention to the mirroring features of the witch, particularly her patches of candy. The stripes of Hansel’s patches mirrors the candy cane striping of the Witch’s dress.

Candy is prevalent in this image, so much so that it is beneath the feet of the children and the witch. However, the children still reach for the candy that the witch holds out to them and Gretel’s eyes stare on in wonder at the witch’s armful of candy.

There is no house depicted in this image, so the witch again becomes a figure who occupies the space between person and house by having candy attached to her apron and her hat resembling a pastry covered in icing and candy. This witch doesn’t look predatory as others do. She is a figure of innocence with a kind face surrounded by a bonnet. She holds onto a cupcake lightly, as though it is barely in her grasp, already within reach of the children.

The connection between the children is illustrated by their entwined hands, but they are simultaneously committed to looking after each other and committed to their hunger. Hansel reaches a hand out to the cupcake held by the witch, while Gretel holds her apron up, presumably filled with candy.

Scott Gustafson is an American illustrator who has won the Chelsea Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and the 2015 Grand Master Award. Gustafson’s art can be seen at http://www.scottgustafson.com/Gallery_DR_FT_HG5.html where you can also see other views of the witch.

 

 

The Art of Snow White – The Poisoned Apple

Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins

The Art of Snow White – The Poisoned Apple
By Derek Newman-Stille

Snow White was originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 and has been revisited in retellings and explorations since that time. It’s central features are the magic mirror, the poisoned apple, the glass coffin, and the heart. It is a tale of vanity, ageing, and revenge.

Ever since the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), much of the imagery around Snow White has been influenced by the film.

Rebenke – Snow White Burton

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Rebenke’s Snow White is dressed in the Disney Snow white colours with a tall white collar and blue, red, and yellow colours, yet each of these colours is shaded, the colours darkened.

The Evil Queen is portrayed in her disguise as an elderly woman, and she is portrayed with her mouth open in a cackle showing jagged, yellowed teeth. Her jaw…

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Hungry

Hungry
A review of Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples” in By Blood We Live, edited by John Joseph Adams (Night Shade Books, 2009)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Skin as pale as snow, lips as red as blood… what could Snow White be other than a Vampire? Neil Gaiman explores the Snow White tale as vampire fiction in “Snow, Glass, Apples”, imagining the princess as a figure of living death and the “Evil Queen” as a witch trying to protect her people from a monster. 

This Queen, like the one in the canonical Snow White tale, uses a mirror. However, her mirror is not a vessel of vanity used to compare herself to other beauties. Instead, it is a vessel of prophesy, telling her of her future with the king and this young girl. Like the canonical tale, this one is also a tale of aging, but rather than the queen fearing her own aging and envying the youth of the princess, this Queen fears what the eternal youth of the princess represents because there are unnatural things in the world that don’t age. A vampire tale is a perfect adaptation for the Snow White exploration of age.

The Queen interacts with her own story, telling us that people told tales of her being given the heart of an animal, when in fact she was given Snow White’s vampiric heart and she tells readers that she did not eat the heart as some tales suggest. “Lies and half truths fall like snow”. She is an active agent in telling readers her own story, one that allows her to be the hero instead of the villain. 

Snow White is left without her heart in the forest, but that heart is not stabbed through as in traditional vampire stories and the princess rises from the grave, from her sleep curse.

The queen discovers that Snow White has been hunting the forest folk when she looks into her scrying glass. She realizes she needs to use her knowledge of witchcraft to cope with the girl and adds her blood to apples, again playing with the theme of blood and the crimson of apples.

Gaiman creates a tale of reversals, with a vampire-hunting queen, a necropheliac prince, and a Snow White shaped by hunger. He probes the boundaries between life and death evoked by the original tale and infuses it with blood.