Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Buckwheat

Before reading Hans Andersen's The Buckwheat, I knew very little about buckwheat.  This limited information included namely that a) you can make pancakes out of it, and b) said pancakes taste much like dirt.  After reading (or sort of skimming, rather) The Buckwheat, I learned that it is a) a proud grain, and being so, b) it is particularly susceptible to lightning.

I'll go so far as to say that Andersen doesn't seem to have looped back around into sappy territory, but we are well within the realm of the tedious allegory.  See also: The Garden of Eden.  

I couldn't bear to do any translation comparison here, as I scarcely made it through two of the dullest pages I've ever attempted to read.  Having survived (remaining awake, at that!) I concluded that rather than drawing some buckwheat, I'd prefer to draw (as the story's title suggests, anyhow) THE Buckwheat.

“I am as valuable as any other corn.”
[Graphite. Moleskine. 4x6"]

And so I did.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ach, du Lieber Augustin!

How silly of me!  I should have known that the one time I read only one translation, that would be the time that a real talking point would sneak by me.

While searching out the next story in chronological order in my Haugaard edition, I caught a glimpse of the ending of The Swineherd, not having read this translation of it before; you might recall.  What grabbed me right away was a conspicuous couplet in the center of the page:

"Ach, du lieber Augustin,
Alles is weg, weg, weg."

Conspicuous, of course, as it was written in a foreign language.  The version of The Swineherd I'd read was entirely translated to English.  Right away I sensed that these lines did NOT translate to "A jolly old sow once lived in a sty / Three little piggies has she…"  (yes, it was probably the proper noun, "Augustin," that tipped me off).

So, I typed the lines into Google and got my answer.  The original is actually a Viennese, plague-era folk song, Oh, du Lieber Augustin, and is about a bard who is nearly buried alive among the dead.  Nothing about pigs.  Wikipedia even includes a footnote referencing Andersen's use of a (modified) version of the song in The Swineherd.  It roughly translates to something like," Oh, dear Augustin / All is lost."  Of course, this fits the story as well, as the princess indeed loses everything in her greed and shallowness.  The use of this song rather than the one about the sow adds depth and the bitterness Andersen can't seem to resist to the tale.

And to think, I even used it in my caption!  I'll be more careful next time - which, if you're wondering, will be The Buckwheat.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Swineherd

The Swineherd wasn't exactly remarkable, but I liked that it was about a bitch getting her comeuppance - and hey, pigs.

I only bothered to do a quick, simple little doodle (although, I did bother to color it, as I'm rather in love with my Copic pens and eager for an excuse to use them).  I figured I've been drawing enough nasty pigs lately, and went for super-cute ones this time.  I've depicted the swineherd/prince character as a sort of wizard-like figure, and I guess he sort of is a wizard.

“A jolly old sow once lived in a sty,
Three little piggies has she,” &c.
[Copic. Sketchbook Paper. 6x4.5"]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sustainable Fertilizers for Flowering Shrubs

No, that's not the name of today's Hans Andersen tale, but it is relevant.  I just thought I'd title this entry something more eye-catching than the plain old story title; today's being The Rose Elf (or, The Elf of the Rose).  For those of you keeping score at home: this time, I only read one translation, that being the Haugaard.  I don't suspect there should be significant variations here, but for transparency's sake I'll disclose that I haven't yet read the translation I linked above.

Getting on with it then:

Any reader of some of Hans Andersen's more obscure works will notice that his storytelling (I say storytelling here, rather than writing - see next paragraph) seems to lack planning of any kind.  A story will begin about one thing, quickly shift to another, and more often than not, come to an abrupt and unexpected end, sloppily tying off, rather than weaving in, all the loose ends Andersen left hanging along the way.  So it goes with The Rose Elf, a story that begins about a tiny elf dwelling among the roses, and ends up a grisly murder tale centered around a severed head kept in a flower pot.  Oops, spoilers.  Nobody actually reads these stories, right?  Nobody even reads this blog, surely.

Anywho.  I suppose I should not be surprised at this lack of planning.  With a bit of imagination, I can clearly picture Andersen, huddled by a dwindling fire in a rustic cottage, surrounded by, oh, some fifty or so filthy, sick, and dying children.  In a malnourished stupor, he attempts to spin a yarn that will shut them up and/or briefly take their minds off of how frozen and starving they are.  Needless to say, the story need not be terribly cohesive or even interesting.
**The preceding has been a FICTIONALIZED DRAMATIZATION.  I have NO IDEA whether Andersen was poor or wealthy, had children or not, etc.  And for once, I'm not bothering to do A LICK of research.**
How all the bizarre false starts and plot holes got into the versions that were actually written down on paper is beyond me, but that's my little story, and it's good enough for me.

Without further ado, two versions (colored and uncolored) of my illustration for The Rose Elf.  Enjoy.

"...she took the largest flower-pot she could find, and in this she placed the head of the dead man, covered it up with earth, and planted the twig of jasmine in it."

[Copic. Moleskine. 5x8"]

If they look slightly different to you, that's because they are.  Neither are scans, they're low-quality photos with skewed perspective.  I'd ask which one you prefer, but the point is moot, as the b&w one doesn't exist anymore, having become the color one.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


When I guessed that the next story would not be as sappy as A Rose From Homer's Grave or The Friendship Pact, I must confess, I was not completely in the dark.  I'd been reading in my (chronologically arranged, print, Haugaard edition) and peeked ahead enough to see that the next story, The Sandman, looked much more fanciful and interesting than the previous two had been.  When I finally did read it (taking a break from Jeff Mudgett's Bloodstains [frightful - not so much for the content as for Mudgett's artless writing and self-indulgent frame story]) I found it to be precisely that, with (when will I learn to expect this?) a dark twist at the end that I somehow failed to see coming.

I haven't been able to carve out much time for this blog at all lately, so recent posts have more or less abandoned my comparative study of different translations.  When I opted to read this tale on my Kindle (translated by Anon) for convenience, I noticed that I couldn't find it by searching for "sandman."  Further investigation via Wikipedia revealed that the story I sought was actually more commonly known as Ole-Luk-Oie or Ole Lukøje.  Indeed, the Kindle edition titles it Ole-Luk-Oie, The Dream God.

Ole-Luk-Oie is interchangeable enough with the figure the English-speaking world calls The Sandman; he sprinkles sand in the eyes of children, making them drift off to sleep, then decides whether or not to bless their sleep with dreams (by the means of magical umbrellas) depending on whether they have been good or bad.  At first, I (reluctantly) convinced myself that it didn't do terrible harm to the tale's integrity to call Ole-Luk-Oie "The Sandman" instead.  I'm assuming the change was made so that English-speaking readers would not stumble over an unfamiliar and difficult-to-pronounce name when a suitable substitute was so readily available.  That excuse, however, only made me wonder why Haugaard would keep the name of the child in the story, Hjalmar, the same, but not Ole's.  If you're changing names for the sake of simplicity, why didn't Haugaard just call the kid Bobby or something?  Not to mention, just how suitable is this substitution?

I read along and found that the story was largely unaffected by the name-change, that is, up until the end.  I'll go ahead and say SPOILER ALERT here, just in case anyone wants to read it for themselves.  After telling Hjalmar  a week's worth of stories (i.e.: giving him a week's worth of dreams), Ole-Luk-Oie introduces Hjalmar to his brother, who happens to go by the same name, Ole-Luk-Oie.  The Kindle edition, earlier on, had revealed that "Luk-Oie" literally means "eye-closer," and while the first Ole closes children's eyes every night when they go to bed, his brother, also known as Death, only closes a particular pair of eyes once.  I figured that was reason enough for a translator to have kept the original name intact.  It makes sense that the "eye closer" would bring either sleep or death, while, in my experience at least, the popular image of The Sandman dealt exclusively in sleep: harmless, albeit creepy.

While I always thought the idea of the Sandman was a little scary, I'd never heard of him being the brother of Death.  Death, the second Ole-Luk-Oie, is a benevolent figure in the story, yet one can't help being just a little creeped out by him.  What little research I did (again, going only as far as Wikipedia could take me) mentions nothing about The Sandman being kin to Death, (although the Wikipedia entry relies heavily on Andersen's Ole to flesh out the content).  Furthermore, Ole Lukøje is said to actually be Morpheus, the Greek Dream God.  Morpheus, in turn, is not specifically cited as being the origin of the Sandman character (except in the Neil Gaiman series).  Therefore, they seem to be fairly distinct characters.  Why confuse things?

Anywho, I can't resist drawing an umbrella, so here you go.

"But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreamed at all."
[Graphite. Moleskine.  5x8"]

For absolutely no reason I have made Ole's umbrella a Kasa Obake, a spirit I'd researched when I was planning a series of drawings of legendary beasts (since abandoned).  Although, maybe it makes more sense than I thought: Ole being an ancient god, his umbrella(s) are bound to be at least one hundred years old.