Monday, June 27, 2011

Pauline Baynes: Alternate Visions

Pauline Baynes is familiar to most people as the illustrator of C. S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, and, to a lesser extent, the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. But as a professional artist she produced work for many more books, magazines, and posters. Seeing these often causes a weird sensation for me, like seeing an alternate world that has gone on for years, side by side with the familiar one, but unknown.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"The Three Dees"

"What we mainly deal with are the Three Dees."

Giles furrowed his brows.

"What are they?"

"Well, there are Devils, which are the worst and most dangerous. That's fallen angels. Unbodied intelligences with a malevolent will; they hate everything but especially humans, seemingly, and have the cunning and malice to go at it hard. Then there's Daemons, which are what you might call spiritual animals, as it were. They arise out of nature and are attached to places and things. Mankind was supposed to be in charge of regulating them in the first place, but lost that ability a while ago."

The little man gave Giles a significant look.

"They're wild and kind of stupid, and every now and then one will break out like a fox in the henhouse and have to be whacked back into place. Then there's Dybbuks, which are the weakest but most common. That's dead people, or bits of them, that hang around after they should've passed on. You get your hauntings and obsessions and so on. Getting rid of Devils is rare and terrifying, like hunting tigers; dealing with Dybbuks is like cockroaches, rather personal and disgusting."

--from Under the Mountain, by T. M. Junge.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky

Feodor Stepanovich Rojankovsky (1891-1970) was an artist who was born in Russia, studied in France, and moved to the USA in 1941. He produced pictures for over a hundred books (some of which he wrote) and won several awards for his work in illustrating children's books. He is most noted for his bold combinations of strong colors. Conversely, he also sold erotic art with a French flavor, mostly under the name of "Rojan."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Recent Toy Acquisitions

Sometimes I remember with a start that I began this blog three and a half years ago mainly with the object of cataloging and talking about my action figure buys. It expanded in a sort of magpie-manner, picking up any news or picture or poetry that caught my eye along the way, and now mainly seems to be concerned with (broadly speaking) fantasy and art.

In a nod back to that earlier time, I present three new action figures I've got recently. Each cost approximately $15. I got the DC Universe The Wizard (Shazam) from eBay, the Tom Baker Fourth Dr. Who from Entertainment Earth, and the Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides from our local Wal-Mart.

Shazam is a good addition to my collection of wizard action figures; he is a sort of bare essence of wizardliness with the furrowed brow, huge beard, and flowing robes. Tom Baker is my favorite Dr. Who, the only one I've really watched for any amount. Barbossa is possibly the best character in the Pirates franchise; probably the only figure I'll get from this release as they are of slightly poorer grade than previous figures. Unless they go on sale somewhere.

Frank C. Pape: Pictures From "The Russian Story Book"

A selection of color illustrations by Frank C. Pape from The Russian Story Book (1916). This is from the period when he was doing more work for children's books and before he entered his "witty" phase, where he used much the same sort of fairy tale art, but ironically.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"The Horns Of Elfland": Favorite Poems


by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear, how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on field or hill or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

Click on the picture above to enjoy the details of this Bernard Sleigh illustration.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Lord Of The Mountains

Between the historical lands of Bohemia and Silesia lie the Riesengebirge (Giant Mountains). There is a very old map of the area, and striding among the mountains may be seen a strange gigantic figure, horned and with a tail, walking upright with a tall staff. This is the earliest known picture of Rubezahl*, the Lord of the Mountains.

Rubezahl is a figure in German folklore, the tutelary spirit or genius of the mountains that derive their name from him. He is responsible for the weather of his peaks, and the thunder and lightning, rain, snow, and fog there reflect his capricious moods. He is Prince of the Gnomes in the Riesengebirge, and all lesser spirits are under his sway. The respectful way to address him is as "Lord of the Mountains" or "Lord John." "Rubezahl" is a name of derision and means "Turnip Counter," and it still angers him. According to the old tale he once captured a princess and swore he would do anything to win her love. She set him to counting the turnip seedlings in a vast field, and while he was busy doing so she made her escape.

Rubezahl is a shape changer, and appears in many forms, and can be anything from a gnome to a giant, and can be astonishingly ugly or "as fair as Apollo." He appears most often as an old man with a staff that appears to be an uprooted tree. He is something of a trickster, and his nature changeable. It was written of him in 1783 "...Rubezahl, you should know, has the nature of a powerful genius: capricious, impetuous, peculiar, rascally, crude, immodest, haughty, vain, fickle, today your warmest friend, tomorrow alien and cold;...roguish and respectable, stubborn and flexible..."

Rubezahl seems to take people as he finds them. To the simple and honest he is affectionate and helpful, but to the shiftless and lying his punishments can be severe. And the one sure way to provoke his wrath is to call him Rubezahl in mockery.

Rubezahl stories have been collected in many German books over the years, and many artists have painted him. Josef Madlener painted a picture of him as Der Berggeist (The Mountain Spirit); J. R. R. Tolkien had a postcard reproduction of this picture and labelled it "The Origin of Gandalf."

*There should be an umlaut over that "u."