The Secret of the Tattered Shoes
Jackie Morris and Ehsan Abdollahi
The latest addition to Tiny Owl’s ‘One Story, Many Voices’ is a rather different interpretation of the Brothers Grimm tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Here the princesses are still locked up each night, and their dancing shoes are still worn down each morning.
However, having met a beautiful woman in the forest
and learned of the princesses, the strong handsome soldier who takes it upon himself to accept the king’s challenge to discover their secret, is weary of life.
Unlike those who have gone before he has a different ending in mind from that offered by the princesses’ father.
Jackie Morris’s text is poetic: ‘The soldier followed, out from the twisting tunnel of steps to an avenue of trees lit by curious starlight. The leaves shone with silver as if painted by moonlight’.
It’s also rather dark: it’s certainly not marriage to one of the king’s daughters – the happily ever after ending of the Grimm version that this soldier seeks. Nevertheless although readers are left to decide for themselves what happens to him, we’re left with a hope that the soldier finds that which he goes in search of after leaving the royal gathering.
Ehsan Abdollahi’s collage illustrations are absolutely right for Jackie Morris’s rendition: from endpaper to endpaper, with puppet-like figures, they’re exquisitely detailed, infused with melancholy and mystery, and reminded me rather of medieval tapestries.