White as Milk, Red as Blood

The Forgotten Fairy Tales of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth
Knopf, Canada

By Franz Xaver von Schönwerth
Illustrated by Willow Dawson
Foreword by Philip Pullman
Translated by Shelley Tanaka

“Ferocious. And funny, and moving, and delightful ... illustrated with wonderful freedom and zestful inventiveness.” PHILIP PULLMAN from the Foreword

Art prints coming soon from Papergirl Press

In stores April 24, 2018

CA: Indigo
CA: Amazon
US: Amazon
US: Barnes & Noble

Typeset pages can be seen here.


The Wolves (left)

In a fit of jealousy over a villager celebrating the birth of twins, a countess claims it’s impossible to have more than one child by one man at a time. Eventually, she births septuplets and throws them to the wolves. It is unclear, however, whether she loves them but is ashamed of herself for her jealousy and ignorant views or is horrified and wishes them dead. Whether she intends for the wolves to eat them or to raise them. The count discovers the children and has them raised elsewhere, calling them The Wolves.

Art Direction by Jennifer Lum


White as Milk, Red as Blood

When a young sister is returned to her long lost brothers she recounts being held prisoner by a tiny man who would force her to "suck his little finger." Her three brothers ambush him and three beautiful flowers grow from the grave. Years later a lost hunter discovers her and falls in love. She is "White as Milk and Red as Blood". When she plucks the flowers for her wedding her brothers are transformed into stags. She must remain silent for seven years to save them while her mother-in-law kills each of her babies and accuses her of cannibalism.

Kidnapping, sexual assault, infanticide, grief and loss, and the silencing of victims and loved ones are some of the major themes I found lying beneath the surface of this tale. The premature whiteness of her hair references not only the title of this story, but also, and perhaps most significantly, the insurmountable and lifelong grief she will endure for the rest of her days.

As long as the flowers remain alive, the king knows his wife (the sister) is innocent. I chose anemones as they are associated with protection and the death of a loved one.

Art Direction by Jennifer Lum

Outwitting the Witch

A girl and a prince are running away from a witch. She takes his sword, turns him into a duck and herself into a pond. The witch drinks up the pond but once inside, the girl resumes her human form and cuts herself out of the witch. The witch is dead and the prince is saved.

I wanted to emphasize transformation and fluidity, softness and strength in this illustration and so we see the girl's hair turning from liquid to solid, water back into hair.

Art Direction by Jennifer Lum

The Witch's Head

A new mother and her baby are offered a chilling choice of food or eternal sleep.

The mother brings her child to visit it's godmother. They arrive at the house but she finds a snake in place of the bell pull, the broom and fireplace poker dancing together on the stairs, and when she looks through the peephole into the parlour she sees the godmother with her head in her lap, picking at lice. The girl makes it known that she is uncomfortable and does not wish to eat the food the witch has laid out for them.

"At which point the witch stood up and screeched, “Eat, you pig! Or I will rip you in pieces!”

Some of my research took me on tangents that spoke to a tone or theme in the story, or motifs shared by other well-known fairy tales. In this case, death’s-head hawkmoths are never named but accounts from Germany (dating back to roughly the same time these tales were collected) associate them with death and sleep. For a story containing motifs of "Fantasia" and “Sleeping Beauty” it seemed fitting to draw them in.

Art Direction by Jennifer Lum.

All content © Willow Dawson 2018
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