Seeking amusement last night, I went flipping through the on-line versions of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, which have great illustrations by H. J. Ford, and through a few others. It's amazing how incestous the stories are--half of them are basically Cupid & Psyche with different props, wicked stepmothers duel it out with fairy godmothers using everything short of lightsabers, identical villianous roles are played by dragons, the Devil, water nixies and wizard kings, everybody has fruit trees where the fruit is vanishing to some enchanted bird or other, and I've read a couple of otherwise wildly different stories that all feature someone taking care of a black mare that hides in the clouds, the sea, and a hill and can only be caught by the intervention of talking eagles, fish, and foxes. I know, archetypes and all that, but it's funny anyway. I've doodled up a few sketches so far--some of the imagery is amazingly bizarre. For example, a few scenes that are just plain cool:
The Prince went on his way, thinking about this strange adventure, when suddenly at the turn of the walk he perceived a tall man whose face was the picture of misery, holding in his hands a silken cord of the exact scarlet colour of those round the necks of the dead men. A few steps further this man came up with another as miserable to the full as he himself; they silently embraced, and then without a word passed the cords round their throats, and fell dead side by side.
He hadn't gone very far when he saw a most extraordinary looking man coming towards him. He was not more than three feet high, his legs were quite crooked, and all his body was covered with prickles like a hedgehog. Two lions walked with him, fastened to his side by the two ends of his long beard.
"She is certainly written in your destiny!" cried the astonished sultan. "But it would be a monstrous thing for a human being to wed with a tortoise!"
"I have no predilection for tortoises in general," cried the prince. "It is this particular one whom I wish to marry."
At noon he heard a great noise, so that he trembled with fear. When he took courage to look out from behind the picture, he saw twelve eagles flying in. At this sight his fear became still greater. The eagles flew to the basin of a fountain that was there and bathed themselves, when suddenly they were changed into twelve handsome youths. Now they seated themselves at the table, and one of them took up a goblet filled with wine, and said, `A health to my father!' And another said, `A health to my mother!' and so the healths went round.
She came to a little old house with a great deal of grass growing round, and stood in front of a little heap of wood. She thought, `Alas! what am I coming to?' and peeped through the window; but she saw nothing inside except big and little toads, and a table beautifully spread with roast meats and wine, and all the dishes and drinking-cups were of silver.
I love stuff like that.