Victoria and Albert Museum

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The Darkside of Fairytales

The Darkside of Fairytales

Fairy tales exist throughout English history. The traditional English tales written in the sixteenth and seventeenth century were produced primarily for adult entertainment. In the seventeenth century however, the advent of widespread chapbook circulation meant that children could, and did, avidly peruse crude redactions of English tales such as Tom Thumb. As fairy tales were never meant for children many tales included exhibitionism, rape, and voyeurism. For example, one version of Little Red Riding Hood has the heroine perform a striptease for the wolf before jumping into bed with him.

Everyone in the world grows up reading, listening to, or watching fairy tales as a child. More than 200 million people a year watch a Disney film or home video, 395 million watch a Disney TV show every week, 212 million listen to Disney music, records, or tapes.

My aim was to illustrate a series of fairy tales, using their original, adult content.

Presenting the stories with graphic visuals, communicated their profound and shocking content to adults. The illustrations remained abstract to draw the viewers attention, but not reveal the overall story until further inspection of the publication.

This revealed the origin of these seemingly innocent stories and get people to question why would they expose children of young ages to stories that seemingly sugarcoat issues such as; mutilation, abandonment, cannibalism, sex and a degrading view of women.

The illustrations were based on controversial issues related to particular fairy tales, for example mutilation in Cinderella. Potential issues include abandonment, the portrayal of women, mutilation, cannibalism, paedophilia and breaking into houses.

an illustration for an abstract from the story Pied Piper.
an illustration for the story Cinderella.
an illustration for an abstract from the story Hansel and Gretel.