Friday, 7 May 2010

scandinavian legends and folk-tales

As I think I've mentioned before the book store at Euphoria, Davenport Rd, Last Chance Books, is a really good one with great find potential if you take the time. This is one of the latest finds, a beautiful book from 1957 (reprint, first edition 1956) called Scandinavian Legends and Folk-tales, retold by Gwyn Jones and stunningly illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe.

This is the gorgeous endpapers, and if you look closely you can see the bargain price: 50 rand (about the same in kronor). I really love 2-colour printing, or duplex as it's called as well. There's so much nuance you can get from just using two colours if you know what you're doing, I admire that a lot. And I love the sweeping lines Kiddell-Monroe use, like Chinese calligraphy.

For those of you who might wonder: no, there are no polar bears walking the woods of Scandinavia, just as there are no elephants walking the streets of Durban. One time a few years ago a brown bear did walk past my neighbourhood in the middle of Stockholm though, true story! I didn't see it, I was sound asleep as most people, but someone spotted it and it made the papers the next day. It is very rare indeed I must add, bears usually never come that far down south, let alone take walks in cities. That said I completely love this picture.

This illustration is from Authun and the Bear. If polar bears were that cute and cuddly looking in reality I wouldn't mind if they did walk the streets in Stockholm. In a leash preferably though. I'm not exactly proud to be a descendant of the vikings by the way, but what can I do about it? I'll just pretend and hope my distant relatives were peaceful farmer vikings, surely there must have been a lot of those around too.

Hello kitschy blonde He-man! Volund the Smith. Not a lot of Swedes look like this, but it's a funny picture. I think maybe in the Finnish woods you'd find someone who might look like this even today. But I've never set foot in the Finnish woods, so clearly that's just my imagination being influenced by folk-tales I guess.

From The Seven Foals comes this picture with some rather evil looking horses. I don't know why Kiddell-Monroe doesn't draw pupils in the eyes, but it's very effectful. And that's a very nice sword, don't you think?

This is my favorite picture of the bunch, maybe cos I really love the story as well: The Wild Swans, a true classic. Most of these legend and folk-tales I don't know or remember, but I guess it's cos not all of them are Swedish. This story however is most famously re-told by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, one of the best Scandinavians of all time. I really like the Brother Grimms stories too, not to mention Oscar Wilde's fairytales, but H.C. Andersen will always have a very special place in my heart. I definitely believe he is one of the main reasons why I love tragedy almost as most as comedy, cos sometimes it's as nice a feeling to have a good cry out cos of something you read, as it is to laugh until your sides hurt. I do prefer tragedies with happy endings though, any day of the week.

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