The Enchantress’s Garden From “The Snow Queen”: Permanent Paradise or Enchanted Distraction?

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a winter scene looking across a frosty heathHaving just sampled the field of memorable and inspired renditions, I simply couldn’t let January pass by without sharing another example from the Golden Age of children’s book illustration, populated by figures such as Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, George Cruikshank and John Tenniel, or the unforgettable Kay Nielsen . . . who happens to share the name of what main character?

You surely know the answer to that by now!

So what have we here? It’s the riverside house and garden of the Enchantress or Good Witch from Andersen’s story, rendered in the sumptuously Art Nouveau, post-Beardsley style of Harry Clarke.

This episode in the story is not unlike many other examples from literature that might come to mind, such as the respite of Odysseus on the island of Ogygia where the nymph Calypso comforts him. It’s a place the hero or heroine can’t remain due to destiny, an escape from reality rather than a pleasant haven suitable for permanent stay. (Remember where the word paradise comes from.)

Gerda meets the Enchantress in an elaborate black-and-white scene illustrated by Harry Clarke (1916)
“How did you manage to come on the great rolling river?”
Gerda meets the Enchantress in “The Snow Queen”
illustration by Harry Clarke to Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen (1916), page 144a

“Detailed” and “decadent” can hardly begin to describe what we see . . . but it is a “fantastic” rendition in the sense that it is “filled with fantasy,” isn’t it? Not every garden design aspires to such a result, but since midwinter is a time of orchid shows and home & garden shows, fantasy suits the season.

If you just landed here, make sure you don’t miss artistic renditions of “The Snow Queen” by two contemporary Americans, Randall Tobin and Kenji Bunch, but if you’d like to own a copy of the story–in its absolutely winning translation by Jean Hersholt–might I suggest the contemporary and oh-so-graphic one illustrated by Sanna Annukka?

I’ll send us out of January with one more glimpse from that “Golden Age,” this scene from 1897, coming from Henry Ford–not the automobile guy, but Henry J. Ford, the British illustrator.

The Snow Queen Appears in a black-and-white illustration by Henry J. Ford from the Pink Fairy Book (1897)

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