Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Hobyahs

When I was a little girl I lived in Idaho right next door to my Grandma and Grandpa Bybee. They had a dark basement that my cousins and sisters and I always snooped around in; even though most of the time we got in trouble for it.

One of the walls in the basement is covered with a built-in bookshelf. I remember looking at the books frequently. There were children's books, grown-up books and encyclopedias. One set of books that I remember most distinctly was a set of books called The Junior Classics. There were ten books total and each of them had a different set of fairy and folk tales collected from all over the globe.

They were older. My dad had grown up with them as a kid. And he remembered his dad reading from them when he was little.

My grandpa must have been particularly fond of one of the tales because he read it to both my dad and us as grandkids. The story is called The Hobyahs and like many old children's tales, it's somewhat grim.

When you experience something like that as a kid it sticks with you of course. So to this day the little creatures from this story seem to hold a dear place in the Bybee family's heart.

I did a little research on the story and it is an old Scottish tale. The word "hob" is an english word that describes a type of house spirit that helps around the property. However, if you offend one they can become quite an enemy. According to this folklore, they can be gotten rid of by giving them their own set of clothing. (Sound familiar?)

It could also be proposed that Tolkien might have been slightly influenced by this word when he created the hobbit characters in his books.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Baba Yaga

Speaking of forests and they're inhabitants; here is the Slavic witch herself: Baba Yaga.
She rides through the dark congregation of trees on her bent broom, looking for lost children to carry away.

Her home is built strangely atop two chicken feet that keep the house mobile. Once a child is captured it is of course eaten as the witch's dinner.

This is another illustration by Ivan Bilibin.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Romantic Idea of a Forest

I'm very drawn to the image of a dark forest these days. There are so many mentioned in the old folk and fairy tales. The pop up in scriptures too. A kind of metaphor for being lost or confused.

I think that the old forests of fairy tales seem so romantic. The idea of being surrounded by a sea of aging trees and the mystery of what lives or lurks there. Some quaint hermit, or a devious witch that cooks children for dinner.

The illustration posted above is by the Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin. His work is all based on the richness of old Russian folk and fairy tales. He too loved and often depicted the deepness of the forest. How could he not being in Russia?

His illustrations are filled with these antiquated hues and sophisticated lines. I love to see the evidence of drawing left behind in artwork. Line has to be my favorite element of design.