24 MARCH 1866, Page 14


GUSTAVE DORE'S FAIRY REALM.* G USTAVE Domes mode of illustrating the Fairy Realm is characteristic. So far as natural scenery is concerned, when- ever there is opportunity for suggesting fear and awe, he does it with a force and effect that are most impressive. But as regards the human figures in whom the fairy powers are vested, he adopts the opposite method, and draws them with a realism that is quite audacious, making them fat, coarse, solid figures, with just a flavour, perhaps, of something uncanny in the eye, but which carry conviction, if at all, to the child as to their magical powers, by the very blankness of their self-assertion, by the very effrontery of their earthliness. Instead of constructing the quaintly proportioned figures, suggesting by their very novelty something unearthly about them, which Cruikshank always gives us for his dwarfs and fairies and witches, Gustave Dord draws boklly on the childish imagination for belief in the fact, half suggested at most by a mere gleam of expression, that these marvellous attributes belong to his magicians, fairies, en- chanters, &c., and almost increases the effect by making the figures to whom they belong so excessively heavy with earthly clay. Look at Cinderella's godmother, perversely transformed by Mr. Tom Hood into Cinderella's aunt,—we say perversely, because a good deal is added to the effect of the legend by the consideration that

• Fairy Realm. A Collection of the Favourite Old Tales. Illustrated by the pencil of Gustave Dord. Told in verse by Tom Hood. London; Ward, Lock, mid Tyler.

the lady in question had professed a sound creed, renounced the Devil and all his works for Cinderella in her cradle, and been directed to bring her " to hear sermons " and get her confirmed as soon as she could repeat the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue,—but this is parenthetic ; look, we say, at Cinderella's god- mother,—for we decline to accept the aunt as an adequate substi- tute,—just in the act of turning a pumpkin into a carriage for Cin- derella to go to the ball in. Gustave Dore makes this fairy in figure and bearing a shrewd, motherly old cook, excessively stout, with a white cap and horn spectacles, stooping down to the pumpkin as if to attack it for culinary purposes. There is a queer gleam in her eyes, and that is all to redeem her from the most solid prose of kitchen life. She not only keeps to the simple costume of motherly house- keepers, but even wears spectacles, as if hersight were weak aswell as mortal ; —no doubt the spectacles are on the very end of her nose, and she is at the moment looking over them, so that if they are for long sight, as is probable, perhaps she wears them in general to re- duce her far-sighted fairy gaze to something like the range of ordinary mortal vision, and, when engaged on operations of this marvel- lous character, and compelled to see further into a pumpkin than her neighbours, dispenses with their limitations. There is a frank confidence in the imaginative force of children shown by the exceed- ing cookiness of the fairy godmother's physical frame, the amazing solidity and—if we may be permitted the expression—absolute pumpkinity of the pumpkin, the verminous aspect of the rat which is about to be made coachman, as he lies on his back on the floor,—in short, by the obstinate and unpromisingly gross and realistic look of everything in that dismal scullery. Gustave Dore trusts ahnost everything to the simple wonder of the in- fantine imagination, — which he aids by a mere hint of weird light, justly perceiving that if the child's own transforming faith is sufficient, which it always will be, the effect will be doubled, trebled, nay, multiplied as manyfold as you please by operating upon such solidly earthy, such tangible, material, and grossly animal shapes as these. The child who can once conceive that cook' her- self is perhaps a fairy, the child who can imagine that that monstrous rat may be on the point of turning into a coachman, has got far deeper into fairy lore than the child who accepts Cruikshank's version of Cinderella's godmother as a fairy, and who is ready to believe that that quaint, trim, pumpkin-shaped coach and those four mousey horses which whirl her away to the ball, may have been produced by a fairy hand out of a pumpkin and four mice. And yet, as we have said, though Dore makes the magical people so excessively solid and earthy, he does put just a gleam of some- thing strange into their eyes, or a line of something enigmatic and uncomfortable about the corners of their mouth, that suggests a back- ground of gruesome possibility. Thus even the godmother has a queer, quizzical look, as if she saw much more in a pumpkin and a rat than a pumpkin andarat,—as if indeed she saw throughthe pumpkin and the rat. Or take the admirable picture of the malignant fairy Spite, in the " Sleeping Beauty," who is spinning in the turret, while the Princess (who, by the way, is much more like a house- maid than a princess) looks on. There never was a more real, coarse old woman, with all the wrinkles that the old Flemish artist Denner was so fond of portraying. She is looking down at her spinning through her great spectacles, so that you cannot see her eyes, and has thatrumpled foreheadwhich in old women knitting expresses difficulty in seeing. She is really intent upon her work, though for a purpose ; but there is a malignant amusement about the shape of her great coarse lips. The neat old Flemish cap and white bodice are respectabilities adopted no doubt to inspire the princess with confidence, the princess not being likely to study so in- dustrious an old lady's mouth; but the raven with its tail elevated on the back of the great bedroom chair in which she is sitting, and the cat close to the old lady's shoulder, who looks upon the raven without any alarm, as a sort of ally, ought to have warned the princess of the presence of something uncanny. Still the old fairy herself is as genuine flesh and blood as a Flemish painter ever painted, and the wicked leer suggests rather crafty malice dissembled, than direct preternatural power. So, too, with the Magician and Ogre in " Puss in Boots." This gentleman is at first sight only a person of enormous size and bad temper. He is evidently just the man to eat that horrible dish of fine fat babies, lying over each other in the relaxed attitudes of recent death, which is waiting on the table for him like a dish of sucking pigs ; and the young gentleman who is pouring out his wine tells you by his furtive and fawning manner how much his master is to be feared ; but it is not till you examine the whites of the Ogre's eyes that you see something more than mere baby- eater about the man, and then it is not exactly preternatural power, but an untamable ferocity which is conscious of having a much wider verge,—much less limit,—than that of ordinary men.

One of Gustave Dore's greatest successes in this book is his picture of "Puss in Boots." The immense pride which Puss evidently has in her Napoleon boots, the degage- way in which she displays the rat and mouse hanging to her belt, the gay Spanish hat she flourishes in one paw when she does not wear it on her head, are what any artist might have drawn; but the foolish

feline craft and theatrical wonder which is thrown into herface asshe goes about announcing that " the Marquis of Carabas' clothes have been taken," in the striking contrast, too, into which the artist throws it with her master's foolish, shivering face of fraud, as he skulks naked in the river till Puss gets him a suit worthy of his adopted title, only Gustave Dore could have conceived. It is the master- piece of the book, and seems almost an intentional satire on the easy triumph of foolish knavishness over the world. The sly, silly, frightened face of the shivering miller boy among the reeds, listen- ing to Puss's false proclamation, and the sly, silly, melodramatic face of Puss herself as she adopts this very simple expedient for getting presentable vestments for her master worthy of her own grand suit, is a picture of too much irony for children to comprehend, but not the less likely to engrave itself upon their imaginations. The next picture, too, where all the haymakers and corncutters are bowing low to the pretended Marquis at Puss's command, and exhibiting a large proportion of the solidest of agricultural legs and backs, is full of grotesque humour.

The illustrations to "Little Red Riding Hood" are exceedingly good, and the child herself is the prettiest picture in the book. The wolf in his first Jesuitical conversation with her is admirable,—his whole attitude and demeanour expressing the savoir-faire of the wolf of the world. But when he is about to eat the grandinother, and afterwards when he invites little Red Riding Hood to lie down beside him for the same purpose, he is not a wolf at all, but an honest-looking retriever, which is a great mistake. Little Red Riding Hood could not have felt any fear

of this creature, though her first acquaintance in the wood was truly formidable, in spite of his silky manners. The realism of

Gustave Dore is carried furthest, however, where there is no pre- ternatural element to suggest. The woodman and his starving wife, with their starving cat and starving dog, are piotures of misery seldom rivalled.

But if Gustave Dore aims at pure realism in his delineations of beings with preternatural power, and leaves everything to the im- agination of the child, assisted only by a certain hint of some- thing unusual in eyes, or mouth, or manner, he throws all sorts of mystery into his landscape. The picture of the palace on which the sleep of a hundred years has fallen, amongst its enbowered woods, is one to remain on the memory of children all their lifetime. It has all the weird shadows of Blake's mystery about it, with a far freer touch, and a wonderful poetry in the sky. If ever there was an enchanted palace, that is it. Or look at the fir wood into which the father and mother of Hop o' My Thumb are leading their seven children with intent to lose them. It is a wood which proclaims aloud that some deed of darkness is to be done in it. It gives you a shiver to look at it, as the little procession, dwindling down to Hop o' My Thumb, winds slowly in. The sun is shining on the outer fir trunks by the stream, but the fir wood itself, into the gloom of which they are just passing, is a land of darkness and of the shadow of death, if ever there was one.

We have little room to speak of Mr. Hood's verses. They are lively, and often picturesque, —sometimes even almost worthy of the pictures,--but too often they spoil the grim reality of Gustave Dore with an impertinent profusion of puns by no means suitable to the style of the illustrations, or to the grave and earnest spirit in which the child to which these legends are best adapted regards them. When Hop o' PLy Thumb and his brothers see the Ogre's wife come out of the Ogre's castle, it is an in- sult to infantine earnestness to be told "And they saw to their joy,

Not a man—nor a boy—

But one of a sex for which terms we employ Of a tenderer sort ;

In short, one to court— "In short"? not at all ;—but a tall one in short.

For she was a giantess, being in figure Than Chang the tremendous, An-actually bigger."

The child for whom these stories are intended is too young and too simple to enjoy puns about Chang and Anak and "at all" and " in short." Moreover, they are utterly out of keeping with the illustrations, which are by no means meant for the frivolous

child of the world. Or again, as to the fairy Spite in " Sleeping Beauty," this sort of thing is mere forced fun :—

" 'Twits old fairy Spite

Whom they did not invite, Because of her manners, which were not polite ; She led a bad life, Was addicted to strife,

And besides, worst of all, she ate peas with a knife."

Nothing can be less in keeping with the intense gravity and forcible realism of the spiteful old crone whom Gustave Dore has drawn for us. These horrible efforts at punning and other forced jokes are perpetually repeated, indeed in every page of Mr. Hood's rhymes, and they are the more to be regretted as he can be very graphic, simple, and picturesque. The description of the palace itself, for instance, in its deep sleep, is almost worthy of the son of the man who wrote that wonderful description of a haunted house :—

" For over all there hung a cloud of fear,

A sense of mystery the spirit daunted, And said as plain as whisper in the ear, The place is haunted."'