Exploring Pictures


Step One—Find Your Pictures

Now that we've had a look at what fairy tales are, let's look at what fairy tales are to you.

Something has brought you here, some wonder, some interest in fairy tales. Let's explore that wonder by starting with a question:

What are the pictures that come to mind when you think of fairy tales?

WRITE a line for each picture.

BEGIN the line with the words "I see" and then write what you see going on in the picture.

Hint: Pay attention to your verbs. Use strong ones!

For example, you might write,

"I see Rapunzel leaning out her tower window."

"I see the tin soldier flying down the gutter on his paper boat."

"I see Hansel and Gretel tiptoeing to the witch's candy house."

jack"I see the little match girl striking a match in the dark."

You may not know where a picture comes from. You might just get an image, a "mirror flashing in the dark," or a "king wandering in a dark wood." That's fine too.

Here's my picture,

I see Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk. His hands are full of shining beans.

Step Two—Choose a Picture

If more than one picture has come to mind, CHOOSE a single picture to focus on.

LOOK more closely at it. What else do you notice going on in the picture?

WRITE down every detail you observe.

SKETCH the picture out if you want.

For example,

I notice that the beans in Jack's hands are different colors and sizes, and they're lit from within in a very unusual way.

I notice that Jack is not very old—maybe about nine.

When I step back to see more in the picture, I notice a few other things.

Jack is standing in the butcher shop.

I see the butcher with his bloodstained apron. The butcher has just given Jack the beans.


Step Three—Find the Story

Now that you've brought your picture to light, go and FIND the story that your picture comes from.

Hint: Fairy tales are pretty easy to access. Most of the classic ones are on the Internet, and libraries have large collections. One very good site with many of the most well-told, well-traveled stories is www.surlalunefairytales.com. The site also contains over a thousand illustrations. If you can't find the story that your picture comes from, might find an illustration that resembles what you have in your imagination.

When you find the story, READ it from beginning to end.

After you've read the story, WRITE down other things that you've discovered are going on in the picture.

For example,

I found my picture of Jack in a Scottish version of Jack and the Beanstalk, written in 1820.

I read the story and learned all sorts of interesting details about Jack and his circumstances. He's in a butcher shop, alright, but there's a whole lot more going on!

The butcher won't take the cow. He tells Jack that she's too lean, and he scolds Jack for mistreating her. The language is pretty extreme.

1-butcher-cow"Your cow, you young prodigal dog! is worth nothing; you have starved her until she would disgrace the shambles; and, as to milk, no wonder that you and your mother have been starving while you were depending upon that supply. One ill turn deserves another, and receives it just as surely as one good turn deserves another!" 

When the nasty butcher finally deigns to give Jack the beans, he does so saying, "They're the oddest I ever saw, not one of them being, either in color or shape, like another."