Fairy Tale Forests

ForestChristina here. I’m still in Sweden and have been enjoying one of the things I miss the most about this country – the huge, deep forests. Sweden is fairly sparsely populated, and in the part where I grew up, most of the countryside is covered by woodland and thousands of lakes of various sizes. Going for nature walks or heading out to pick berries and mushrooms is a favourite pastime here and it’s something I used to do with my family as well. There is a law in this country called “Allemansrätten” which gives everyone the right to roam wherever they wish, provided they don’t trample crops, ruin anything or leave rubbish behind. It’s a fantastic privilege and one that most Swedes don’t abuse.

2 Skutt_by_Tuvstarr_by_John_Bauer_1913This time of year, the berries are all gone and most of the mushrooms too, but it’s still lovely to just go for a walk, as I did last week with my friend and fellow author Anna Belfrage. It’s hunting season, so there’s always the possibility that you might come across a panicking elk/moose, deer or wild boar, but that’s never happened to me. I just enjoy the peace and quiet, and the fresh scents of pine and moss. (I’m not getting into a debate about whether they are called elk or moose – I prefer the word elk because it’s a direct translation of the Swedish word “älg” which is what they are called here, but others seem to disagree.) (Illustration – "Skutt by Tuvstarr" by John Bauer 1913)

2 and half Brother_St._Martin_and_the_Three_Trolls_(John_Bauer)_-_Nationalmuseum_-_24306.tifAs a child, I was dragged out (that was how I thought of it at the time) to enjoy nature most weekends, even in winter when we went cross country skiing through the forest. Being a book worm back then, as now, I didn’t appreciate it as I would much have preferred to stay at home and read, but nowadays I can see the attraction more clearly. There is something truly magical about the Swedish forests, especially in winter when snow or thick frost cloaks the tree branches, the air is so cold and fresh it stings your cheeks and sears your lungs, and it is usually completely silent and all you can hear is the swish of your skis on the snow. (Illustration – Brother St Martin and the Three Trolls by John Bauer)

3 John_Bauer_-_The_Princess_and_the_Trolls_-_Google_Art_ProjectDuring the rest of the year, there is a different kind of magic – the fairy tale kind. These often feature dark forests, and it is easy to imagine creatures like trolls and elves behind the thick tree trunks and mossy boulders. Swedish artist John Bauer, a favourite of mine, was a master at depicting these and he hailed from a town not far from where I am. His trolls are ugly, lumbering creatures that blend in with their surroundings, while his princesses and elves are tiny, delicate and beautiful. I have always loved his paintings and find them inspiring! (Here is his drawing "The Princess and the Trolls")

4 Princess Tuvstarr  John Bauer  Public domain  via Wikimedia CommonsBauer’s own story is a tragically short one though. Born in 1882, he was a painter and illustrator, mostly remembered for the illustrations he made for a book called Bland Tomtar och Troll (“Among Gnomes and Trolls”). This is a collection of Swedish fairy tales and stories, and Bauer’s drawings are amazing. The one of “Princess Tuvstarr” is my favourite and always fascinated me as a child. She is depicted as sitting naked and alone in the darkest part of the forest, staring into a black tarn, her long golden hair like a shimmering cloak around her. My grandparents had a copy of this drawing carved out of wood, which was lovely. He also drew images from Norse mythology, like the wolf Fenrir and Loki with the goddess Idun in the picture below.

5 Loki_and_Idun_-_John_BauerJohn Bauer grew up in a town called Jönköping, which is very close to where I lived as a child. At the age of 16 he went to Stockholm to study art, but he was deemed too young to attend the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts so had to go to a different art school for a couple of years first before finally gaining entry. His home town and county provided him with inspiration for his troll and forest scenes, and they really resonate with me as the backgrounds feel so familiar. He also travelled a lot, gaining even more inspiration from places like Lappland (in the far north of Sweden), Germany and Italy.

6 Ester_Ellqvist_and_John_BauerBauer married another artist, Ester Ellqvist, and they had one child, a son. Ester was a fellow artist also studying at the Academy, but in a separate department for women. She had the same dreams and ambitions as her husband, but she was expected to be a wife and mother first and foremost, so her art had to take a backseat. That must have been difficult to accept! These days she is best known as the model for some of Bauer’s most well-known illustrations, which is kind of sad. Understandably, their marriage wasn’t always harmonious.

The couple bought a house near the town of Gränna, north of Jönköping on the shores of Lake Vättern, but they also travelled a lot and sometimes rented apartments in Stockholm. Being an artist didn’t provide a steady income and Bauer relied on his parents to help them out.

7 512px-Sjoekungen_by_John_Bauer_1911In 1918 they decided to relocate to Stockholm and set off on the journey on the 19th November on a steamship. There is a canal called Göta Kanal linking Gothenburg with Stockholm and the trip incorporates a stretch of Lake Vättern, where the Bauer’s lived, so that they were able to join from there. Bauer had read about a recent train accident and must have thought he and his family would be safer travelling by boat, but unfortunately that didn’t prove to be the case. The ship was loaded with all manner of heavy items made of iron, and much of it was stored on deck as there wasn’t enough room in the hold. As the weather was bad, the storm made the cargo move and caused the ship to capsize. It sank killing all 24 passengers, including Bauer, his wife and child – a huge tragedy, especially as they were only 500 metres from land!

The wreckage was salvaged and the Bauer family buried in his home town of Jönköping. He had made several illustrations featuring a sea king (see above), but I’m sure he never imagined the water would claim his life. If you are ever in the south of Sweden, do visit the Jönköpings Länsmuseum, where they have a lot of Bauer’s work.

Although his life was cut short far too early, John Bauer lives on through his wonderful illustrations and they definitely fire my imagination!

Do you have any favourite illustrators, especially when it comes to fairy tales and folk tales?

180 thoughts on “Fairy Tale Forests”

  1. That’s so pretty, Philippa! I just had a look at some of her other illustrations and they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. That’s so pretty, Philippa! I just had a look at some of her other illustrations and they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  3. That’s so pretty, Philippa! I just had a look at some of her other illustrations and they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  4. That’s so pretty, Philippa! I just had a look at some of her other illustrations and they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  5. That’s so pretty, Philippa! I just had a look at some of her other illustrations and they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Oh Christina, I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your post!! It inspires me to find out more about John Bauer and his illustrations. I always liked Arthur Rackham who does wonderful fairies. And I think Beatrix Potter did a wonderful job of depicting her animals in her books. I also like Mary Engelbreit.

    Reply
  7. Oh Christina, I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your post!! It inspires me to find out more about John Bauer and his illustrations. I always liked Arthur Rackham who does wonderful fairies. And I think Beatrix Potter did a wonderful job of depicting her animals in her books. I also like Mary Engelbreit.

    Reply
  8. Oh Christina, I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your post!! It inspires me to find out more about John Bauer and his illustrations. I always liked Arthur Rackham who does wonderful fairies. And I think Beatrix Potter did a wonderful job of depicting her animals in her books. I also like Mary Engelbreit.

    Reply
  9. Oh Christina, I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your post!! It inspires me to find out more about John Bauer and his illustrations. I always liked Arthur Rackham who does wonderful fairies. And I think Beatrix Potter did a wonderful job of depicting her animals in her books. I also like Mary Engelbreit.

    Reply
  10. Oh Christina, I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed your post!! It inspires me to find out more about John Bauer and his illustrations. I always liked Arthur Rackham who does wonderful fairies. And I think Beatrix Potter did a wonderful job of depicting her animals in her books. I also like Mary Engelbreit.

    Reply
  11. Thank you for this post. I loved all the illustrations. I am grateful that you introduced me to John Bauer. The art of being an illustrator has included some very talented and yet unknown artists.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  12. Thank you for this post. I loved all the illustrations. I am grateful that you introduced me to John Bauer. The art of being an illustrator has included some very talented and yet unknown artists.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  13. Thank you for this post. I loved all the illustrations. I am grateful that you introduced me to John Bauer. The art of being an illustrator has included some very talented and yet unknown artists.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  14. Thank you for this post. I loved all the illustrations. I am grateful that you introduced me to John Bauer. The art of being an illustrator has included some very talented and yet unknown artists.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  15. Thank you for this post. I loved all the illustrations. I am grateful that you introduced me to John Bauer. The art of being an illustrator has included some very talented and yet unknown artists.
    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

    Reply
  16. Thank you Donna! Oh yes, I love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations too, they are wonderful! And Beatrix Potter’s are cute 🙂 Will look up Mary Engelbreit, haven’t heard of her.

    Reply
  17. Thank you Donna! Oh yes, I love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations too, they are wonderful! And Beatrix Potter’s are cute 🙂 Will look up Mary Engelbreit, haven’t heard of her.

    Reply
  18. Thank you Donna! Oh yes, I love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations too, they are wonderful! And Beatrix Potter’s are cute 🙂 Will look up Mary Engelbreit, haven’t heard of her.

    Reply
  19. Thank you Donna! Oh yes, I love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations too, they are wonderful! And Beatrix Potter’s are cute 🙂 Will look up Mary Engelbreit, haven’t heard of her.

    Reply
  20. Thank you Donna! Oh yes, I love Arthur Rackham’s illustrations too, they are wonderful! And Beatrix Potter’s are cute 🙂 Will look up Mary Engelbreit, haven’t heard of her.

    Reply
  21. I’m so glad to hear that, it’s wonderful, isn’t it! As long as people act responsibly and take home all their rubbish. Such freedom being able to roam where you wish!

    Reply
  22. I’m so glad to hear that, it’s wonderful, isn’t it! As long as people act responsibly and take home all their rubbish. Such freedom being able to roam where you wish!

    Reply
  23. I’m so glad to hear that, it’s wonderful, isn’t it! As long as people act responsibly and take home all their rubbish. Such freedom being able to roam where you wish!

    Reply
  24. I’m so glad to hear that, it’s wonderful, isn’t it! As long as people act responsibly and take home all their rubbish. Such freedom being able to roam where you wish!

    Reply
  25. I’m so glad to hear that, it’s wonderful, isn’t it! As long as people act responsibly and take home all their rubbish. Such freedom being able to roam where you wish!

    Reply
  26. Yeah. I once read about this guy from some eastern European country who seemed to think “jokamiehenoikeudet” are much broader than they really are. Just imagine the landowners surprise, when he was walking in his forest one day and then he came across this cabin made out of his trees, reindeer (either his or his neighbours’ reindeer) shot by bow and arrow and there were also nets for fishing.

    Reply
  27. Yeah. I once read about this guy from some eastern European country who seemed to think “jokamiehenoikeudet” are much broader than they really are. Just imagine the landowners surprise, when he was walking in his forest one day and then he came across this cabin made out of his trees, reindeer (either his or his neighbours’ reindeer) shot by bow and arrow and there were also nets for fishing.

    Reply
  28. Yeah. I once read about this guy from some eastern European country who seemed to think “jokamiehenoikeudet” are much broader than they really are. Just imagine the landowners surprise, when he was walking in his forest one day and then he came across this cabin made out of his trees, reindeer (either his or his neighbours’ reindeer) shot by bow and arrow and there were also nets for fishing.

    Reply
  29. Yeah. I once read about this guy from some eastern European country who seemed to think “jokamiehenoikeudet” are much broader than they really are. Just imagine the landowners surprise, when he was walking in his forest one day and then he came across this cabin made out of his trees, reindeer (either his or his neighbours’ reindeer) shot by bow and arrow and there were also nets for fishing.

    Reply
  30. Yeah. I once read about this guy from some eastern European country who seemed to think “jokamiehenoikeudet” are much broader than they really are. Just imagine the landowners surprise, when he was walking in his forest one day and then he came across this cabin made out of his trees, reindeer (either his or his neighbours’ reindeer) shot by bow and arrow and there were also nets for fishing.

    Reply
  31. My Mom was a Children’s Librarian and as a result, I have a long list of illustrators I love. The story she wrote about her one memory about her Uncle Willard Knutson (POW/MIA 17 May 1944) was illustrated by a class of sixth graders. I think it is may favorite illustrated story.

    Reply
  32. My Mom was a Children’s Librarian and as a result, I have a long list of illustrators I love. The story she wrote about her one memory about her Uncle Willard Knutson (POW/MIA 17 May 1944) was illustrated by a class of sixth graders. I think it is may favorite illustrated story.

    Reply
  33. My Mom was a Children’s Librarian and as a result, I have a long list of illustrators I love. The story she wrote about her one memory about her Uncle Willard Knutson (POW/MIA 17 May 1944) was illustrated by a class of sixth graders. I think it is may favorite illustrated story.

    Reply
  34. My Mom was a Children’s Librarian and as a result, I have a long list of illustrators I love. The story she wrote about her one memory about her Uncle Willard Knutson (POW/MIA 17 May 1944) was illustrated by a class of sixth graders. I think it is may favorite illustrated story.

    Reply
  35. My Mom was a Children’s Librarian and as a result, I have a long list of illustrators I love. The story she wrote about her one memory about her Uncle Willard Knutson (POW/MIA 17 May 1944) was illustrated by a class of sixth graders. I think it is may favorite illustrated story.

    Reply
  36. I am in love with the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth(Andrew Wyeth’s father),especially the ones he did for Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I had a chance to see the original paintings at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, which has a good collection of the Wyeth family, 3 generations of artists. N.C. was known for his illustrations of swashbucklers and adventure stories, like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Arrow, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. His illustrations are so dynamic and full of action, like this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Stevenson_-_Treasure_island,_1933.djvu&page=3

    Reply
  37. I am in love with the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth(Andrew Wyeth’s father),especially the ones he did for Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I had a chance to see the original paintings at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, which has a good collection of the Wyeth family, 3 generations of artists. N.C. was known for his illustrations of swashbucklers and adventure stories, like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Arrow, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. His illustrations are so dynamic and full of action, like this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Stevenson_-_Treasure_island,_1933.djvu&page=3

    Reply
  38. I am in love with the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth(Andrew Wyeth’s father),especially the ones he did for Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I had a chance to see the original paintings at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, which has a good collection of the Wyeth family, 3 generations of artists. N.C. was known for his illustrations of swashbucklers and adventure stories, like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Arrow, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. His illustrations are so dynamic and full of action, like this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Stevenson_-_Treasure_island,_1933.djvu&page=3

    Reply
  39. I am in love with the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth(Andrew Wyeth’s father),especially the ones he did for Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I had a chance to see the original paintings at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, which has a good collection of the Wyeth family, 3 generations of artists. N.C. was known for his illustrations of swashbucklers and adventure stories, like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Arrow, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. His illustrations are so dynamic and full of action, like this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Stevenson_-_Treasure_island,_1933.djvu&page=3

    Reply
  40. I am in love with the book illustrations of N.C. Wyeth(Andrew Wyeth’s father),especially the ones he did for Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I had a chance to see the original paintings at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, which has a good collection of the Wyeth family, 3 generations of artists. N.C. was known for his illustrations of swashbucklers and adventure stories, like Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, The Black Arrow, The Last of the Mohicans, and many others. His illustrations are so dynamic and full of action, like this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Stevenson_-_Treasure_island,_1933.djvu&page=3

    Reply
  41. Fascinating story! We have the trolls and the fairies, and the nisse, of course, but very few forests. At least compared to Sweden and Finland. More mountain trolls and creepy things in the sea, I think 😀 I’ve seen the Princess Tuvstarr drawing, but I didn’t know about Bauer and his impact. Heartbreaking that the whole family died like that. What a loss.

    Reply
  42. Fascinating story! We have the trolls and the fairies, and the nisse, of course, but very few forests. At least compared to Sweden and Finland. More mountain trolls and creepy things in the sea, I think 😀 I’ve seen the Princess Tuvstarr drawing, but I didn’t know about Bauer and his impact. Heartbreaking that the whole family died like that. What a loss.

    Reply
  43. Fascinating story! We have the trolls and the fairies, and the nisse, of course, but very few forests. At least compared to Sweden and Finland. More mountain trolls and creepy things in the sea, I think 😀 I’ve seen the Princess Tuvstarr drawing, but I didn’t know about Bauer and his impact. Heartbreaking that the whole family died like that. What a loss.

    Reply
  44. Fascinating story! We have the trolls and the fairies, and the nisse, of course, but very few forests. At least compared to Sweden and Finland. More mountain trolls and creepy things in the sea, I think 😀 I’ve seen the Princess Tuvstarr drawing, but I didn’t know about Bauer and his impact. Heartbreaking that the whole family died like that. What a loss.

    Reply
  45. Fascinating story! We have the trolls and the fairies, and the nisse, of course, but very few forests. At least compared to Sweden and Finland. More mountain trolls and creepy things in the sea, I think 😀 I’ve seen the Princess Tuvstarr drawing, but I didn’t know about Bauer and his impact. Heartbreaking that the whole family died like that. What a loss.

    Reply
  46. Christina, your description of the forests explains a lot about Northern European mythology! Interesting about the elk/alg/moose. In the US, moose and elk are two distinctly different species. The moose is larger and scary. Elk look kind of goofy. *G*

    Reply
  47. Christina, your description of the forests explains a lot about Northern European mythology! Interesting about the elk/alg/moose. In the US, moose and elk are two distinctly different species. The moose is larger and scary. Elk look kind of goofy. *G*

    Reply
  48. Christina, your description of the forests explains a lot about Northern European mythology! Interesting about the elk/alg/moose. In the US, moose and elk are two distinctly different species. The moose is larger and scary. Elk look kind of goofy. *G*

    Reply
  49. Christina, your description of the forests explains a lot about Northern European mythology! Interesting about the elk/alg/moose. In the US, moose and elk are two distinctly different species. The moose is larger and scary. Elk look kind of goofy. *G*

    Reply
  50. Christina, your description of the forests explains a lot about Northern European mythology! Interesting about the elk/alg/moose. In the US, moose and elk are two distinctly different species. The moose is larger and scary. Elk look kind of goofy. *G*

    Reply
  51. I think he got into quite a bit of trouble and got to learn more than he ever wanted to about the law in Finland and had to pay a nice sum of money to the landowner and to whoever owned the reindeer he shot. Among other things.

    Reply
  52. I think he got into quite a bit of trouble and got to learn more than he ever wanted to about the law in Finland and had to pay a nice sum of money to the landowner and to whoever owned the reindeer he shot. Among other things.

    Reply
  53. I think he got into quite a bit of trouble and got to learn more than he ever wanted to about the law in Finland and had to pay a nice sum of money to the landowner and to whoever owned the reindeer he shot. Among other things.

    Reply
  54. I think he got into quite a bit of trouble and got to learn more than he ever wanted to about the law in Finland and had to pay a nice sum of money to the landowner and to whoever owned the reindeer he shot. Among other things.

    Reply
  55. I think he got into quite a bit of trouble and got to learn more than he ever wanted to about the law in Finland and had to pay a nice sum of money to the landowner and to whoever owned the reindeer he shot. Among other things.

    Reply
  56. Yes, it is really easy to imagine all sorts of creatures watching you as you walk through the dark Scandinavian forests!
    The elk/moose debate – I know elk are totally different in the US so it has always seemed weird to me that the word comes from the same one as the Swedish for ‘moose’, ie “älg”. And I think your moose are much bigger than ours even though they look exactly the same! Fascinating.

    Reply
  57. Yes, it is really easy to imagine all sorts of creatures watching you as you walk through the dark Scandinavian forests!
    The elk/moose debate – I know elk are totally different in the US so it has always seemed weird to me that the word comes from the same one as the Swedish for ‘moose’, ie “älg”. And I think your moose are much bigger than ours even though they look exactly the same! Fascinating.

    Reply
  58. Yes, it is really easy to imagine all sorts of creatures watching you as you walk through the dark Scandinavian forests!
    The elk/moose debate – I know elk are totally different in the US so it has always seemed weird to me that the word comes from the same one as the Swedish for ‘moose’, ie “älg”. And I think your moose are much bigger than ours even though they look exactly the same! Fascinating.

    Reply
  59. Yes, it is really easy to imagine all sorts of creatures watching you as you walk through the dark Scandinavian forests!
    The elk/moose debate – I know elk are totally different in the US so it has always seemed weird to me that the word comes from the same one as the Swedish for ‘moose’, ie “älg”. And I think your moose are much bigger than ours even though they look exactly the same! Fascinating.

    Reply
  60. Yes, it is really easy to imagine all sorts of creatures watching you as you walk through the dark Scandinavian forests!
    The elk/moose debate – I know elk are totally different in the US so it has always seemed weird to me that the word comes from the same one as the Swedish for ‘moose’, ie “älg”. And I think your moose are much bigger than ours even though they look exactly the same! Fascinating.

    Reply
  61. Such a wonderful & interesting blog (with great pictures) even though it had an unhappy ending. I love Arthur Rackham & Beatrix Potter. I’m not sure if Margaret Tarrant ever illustrated a story book but I absolutely love her work. I have many framed in my home.

    Reply
  62. Such a wonderful & interesting blog (with great pictures) even though it had an unhappy ending. I love Arthur Rackham & Beatrix Potter. I’m not sure if Margaret Tarrant ever illustrated a story book but I absolutely love her work. I have many framed in my home.

    Reply
  63. Such a wonderful & interesting blog (with great pictures) even though it had an unhappy ending. I love Arthur Rackham & Beatrix Potter. I’m not sure if Margaret Tarrant ever illustrated a story book but I absolutely love her work. I have many framed in my home.

    Reply
  64. Such a wonderful & interesting blog (with great pictures) even though it had an unhappy ending. I love Arthur Rackham & Beatrix Potter. I’m not sure if Margaret Tarrant ever illustrated a story book but I absolutely love her work. I have many framed in my home.

    Reply
  65. Such a wonderful & interesting blog (with great pictures) even though it had an unhappy ending. I love Arthur Rackham & Beatrix Potter. I’m not sure if Margaret Tarrant ever illustrated a story book but I absolutely love her work. I have many framed in my home.

    Reply
  66. Sheilah Beckett is the first fairy tale illustrator I was aware of (from a Little Golden Book, when I was three years old), and remains a favorite. Graceful, with vibrant colors and a sly sense of humor.

    Reply
  67. Sheilah Beckett is the first fairy tale illustrator I was aware of (from a Little Golden Book, when I was three years old), and remains a favorite. Graceful, with vibrant colors and a sly sense of humor.

    Reply
  68. Sheilah Beckett is the first fairy tale illustrator I was aware of (from a Little Golden Book, when I was three years old), and remains a favorite. Graceful, with vibrant colors and a sly sense of humor.

    Reply
  69. Sheilah Beckett is the first fairy tale illustrator I was aware of (from a Little Golden Book, when I was three years old), and remains a favorite. Graceful, with vibrant colors and a sly sense of humor.

    Reply
  70. Sheilah Beckett is the first fairy tale illustrator I was aware of (from a Little Golden Book, when I was three years old), and remains a favorite. Graceful, with vibrant colors and a sly sense of humor.

    Reply

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