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Monday, September 24, 2012

Fairy Artwork At The Ghibli Museum

I'd like to share with some data on the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan that is running a cool special exhibition right now based on illustrations by Andrew Lang.

Lang (1844-1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic who conceived of the idea of collecting children's stories and folklore previously only available by word of mouth. He collected them, had his wife and other translators convert them to English and he published them - all 437 of them - in 12 books called Andrew Lang's Fairy Books.

About 30 years ago, I first came across the first of these books The Blue Fairy Book (published in 1889) as a freshman at university in a Humanities course I took called: Modes of Fantasy. Yeah... I can remember the course name and even the professor who taught it - Mildred Bacon but truly, I have little other recollection of my time as a student at York University in Toronto.

The book and others using a different color (The Red Fairy Book, The Crimson Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book et al) collected the fairy tales we grew up knowing but not really knowing... we seem to only know the Disney-fied versions which are sweet and nice... and not quite the original grotesque, violent versions that were quite literally told to frighten the crap out of children.

Of course, they weren't all violent tales... some are quite fanciful and fantastic. What Lang did was help preserve a piece of our culture that would have been long forgotten - lost to the ages, if you will.

Which brings me to Japan.

The Ghibli Museum is showing off artwork  - in enlarged formats - showing off some of the fantastic mythical and familiar characters from his books: princesses, princes, dragons, giants, monsters, witches, fairies and wizards.

Japan was also intrigued by these stories, as they were translated into Japanese soon after they hit the market in after originally being published, as Japan easily embraced Western culture and illustrated art during the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The special exhibition entitled: "The Gift Of Illustrations - A Source of Popular Culture" opened on June 2, 2012 and runs through May of 2013.

If you find yourself in Tokyo, it might be worth your while to check it out.

Andrew Joseph
Thanks to Cathy Li for the heads up on this! 

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