Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fairy Tales

One Christmas, I received a sweet little teddy bear.  Baby blue and soft, it had a wee golden turnkey on its back and when wound, elicited a charming tinkling version of Lara's Theme from the film Dr. Zhivago.  That bear sat with me while I wiled away that snowy and housebound Christmas vacation, devouring my other favorite present, The Golden Book of Fairy Tales.

First published in 1958, this oversized book of 28 fairy tales had the most mesmerizing illustrations unlike any others in my book collection.  All were astonishingly intricate, stirring, and sometimes bewildering - perfect fodder for my imagination.  When Bear and I weren't reading, I was dressing up with my mother's strands of costume pearls and beads, or making crowns from tin foil and adorning them with any bauble I could find in my small jewelry box.  But the images could also be described as haunting, some more than others.  The small boned delicate faces had large limpid eyes that were often sad or ghostly.  You won't get any arguments from me that some fairy tales are frightening, even gruesome.  Still, I was enchanted with my book, the stories of romance and danger, the detailed costumes encrusted with gems and jewels.

The book eventually disappeared with other childhood ephemera, including my little blue bear, but I began to think about it again when my daughter was born.  Before the internet, books had to be searched for by mail, phone, or browsing and I was no stranger to my local used bookseller, who called one day to say he had my fairy tale book in his shop. It wasn't quite as large as I recalled but it was just as delightfully intricate and vivid.  I waited until my daughter was old enough and I enjoyed it all over again with her in my lap instead of my bear. 

I discovered recently that the book was illustrated by a French/Greek woman named Adrienne Ségur.  Not much is known about her but I was surprised to see that she strikingly resembled the breathtaking faces in her illustrations.  Now, I doubt I will ever find a sweet little baby blue bear that plays Lara's Theme, but I'm happy to have my spellbinding fairy tales on the shelf in the hall.

(Do let me know if you enjoyed this this book too!)


1 comment:

  1. What lovely, feminine illustrations! And you're so right, she DOES look like her creations. I wonder how many illustrators do exactly that, whether or not they realize it? Well done. I never saw this book, my idolized book was a version of Heidi, which I recently found and bought for my granddaughter. Alas, today's audience is not as content with an illustration on every other page...I don't think my little granddaughter really enjoyed the book. But then, she didn't have my mother reading it to her, either! ;-)