cover image Six Swans

Six Swans

Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm, D. Duntze, J. Grimm. NorthSouth, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-55858-982-7

In this faithful translation of the Brothers Grimm, Duntze (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) explores themes of fear and silence with a somber palette and refined, elongated figures. Lost deep in a forest, a king promises a witch that he will marry her daughter in exchange for a way out. Fearing that his new wife will harm his children (from a previous marriage), he conceals them in a lone castle in the thick of the woods. However, she discovers their hiding place and sews shirts with a spell that turns his six sons into swans. The daughter escapes, vowing to free her brothers by sewing them shirts of starflowers and by keeping silent for six years. She marries, remains mute and, wrongly accused of the murder of her own children, stands at the stake about to be burned when the swan brothers arrive, the six years of silence ended. They take from her the starflower shirts and turn back into men. Duntze's drawings are architectural in their composition, each serving to convey the silent woman's isolation--dwarfing tree limbs in forest scenes and interiors sectioned in grids. Startling images of animals, whether hybrid decorations on the evil queen's mantelpiece (birds with human faces, a mermaid) or the six swooping swans, underscore the magical world in which humans and nonhumans inextricably intertwine. Duntze succeeds in depicting the darkness of human experience without shielding children from strong emotion. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)