I was emailed last night and asked to do a review of all the Froud books I had on my bookshelf and to be honest, I couldn’t think of anything better to do. It also gives me something to post for Zuly’s Book Club as well as BlogCritics.
Brian Froud is well known in movie circles for his work in Jim Henson’s stunning “muppet” piece, Labyrinth (staring the effervescent duel-colour-eyed David Bowie and a young and gorgeous Jennifer Connolly) and puppet design for The Dark Crystal where he met his lovely wife, Wendy.
In literary circles however, he is probably most famous for his ground-breaking work with Alan Lee (who did concept design and much of the art in the Lord of the Rings movies directed by Peter Jackson) in what has become probably what has become the most cherished and referenced authority on fairy lore ever – Faeries.
Published originally in 1978, Froud and Lee brought myth and legend to life with delightful sketches and watercolour paintings which ceaselessly defy the bounds of what we know and understand to be fairy (or faery). The style of the book is also unique, published in large format and much of the text is written by hand which compliments the illustrations and illuminations on each page.
Froud and Lee have pulled many stories, legends and folklore from around the world, concentrating mostly on Celtic Lore (encompassing Welsh, Irish, Scots and English). The reader is taken through everything from benign mine knockers to the carnivorous water spirits.
Faeries has recently been re-released in a special 25th anniversary edition featuring extra art and a forward by Froud and Lee, though if you have already got the original book you don’t need the new one, there’s only a couple new pages.
In Good Fairies/Bad Fairies, we’re taken through Froud’s personal experiences with the fairies that have manifested themselves through his artwork. In the book he explains that he does not start to draw with a picture already in mind, but rather watches as a scribble turns to a figure and that figure to a painting practically all of it’s own (which could be likened to ghost-writing). Regardless of how the art came to fruition, it is simply beautiful. I leaned more towards the bad fairy section rather than the good due to the bolder colours used and the expressions of the fairies themselves. They didn’t seem so vague as the more benign good fairies and frankly, some of the fairies seemed too cute to be bad – but with all things fay, looks can be decieving.
Then we come to the Lady Cottington books. We have Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book and Lady Cottington’s Fairy Albumn. In the first is the diary and captured images of Lady Cottington whom we follow throughout her life as she slams her journal shut to preserve an image of the fairies. This results in comical impressions and artworks that range from cheeky to downright naughty.
The second book continues the story and adds a twist as Lady Cottingtons younger sister finds and reads another journal and makes comments along with the notes and pictures left by the original Lady Cottington. To enjoy the book, you really need to read and view everything as it evolves (ie, don’t skip pages).
It’s a delight to read for those who are children at heart – but not actually children. The style of the fairy art is more adult than what any children under the age of at least twelve should be looking at as most of the artwork depicts nudity, tasteful nudity but nudity all the same. Unfortunately many bookshops I’ve been to in the past have had the book in the children’s section. While the artwork is beautiful – it’s really not appropriate for the youngin’s.