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Dragon from the North Fairy Tale

As a children's book illustrator, Denise has many things to say about the process, her struggles, and children's books on the market today.

I figured the fire would look more dramatic against a dark background.

I figured the fire would look more dramatic against a dark background.

Thesis Idea

As a background for this story, I have to tell how it all began. Some years ago I started an alphabet book for children as a thesis project for my illustration degree. This story is an Estonian fairy tale about a dragon, which I thought children would love. The whole project transformed and morphed many times before I was done. I am planning a series with several more folktales and fairytales from around the world for each letter of the alphabet.

Collage Illustrations

First, I decided I didn’t want the typical “A is for Apple” type of book or animal alphabet book; those have been done. It was my love of fairy tales that started me on this theme. Second, my advisors saw some of my collage work and suggested that I make the illustrations in collage instead of watercolor. Knowing that would take much longer, I began right away. But even then the transformation continued.

Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.

— Albert Schweitzer

Value Sketch for the illustration.

Value Sketch for the illustration.

Global Fairytales

After doing R is for Red Riding Hood and J is for Jack in the Beanstalk, I thought I was going to have trouble finding fairy tales for all 26 letters if I stuck to the typical Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And that’s when it hit me to be more global. Why not research fairy tales and folk tales from all over the world? This added to my work but in the end, it became very satisfying. I was so happy to have a dragon story included in the book. To make the fire look dramatic in the illustration, I put it against a dark background and lit the boy with a lamp.

Color Composition before the collage paper is added.

Color Composition before the collage paper is added.

Dragon from the North, An Estonian Fairy Tale,

Long ago, a dragon came from the north and destroyed the land. There was a legend that said that a man with King Solomon's ring could stop it so a brave young boy set out to find some way. A magician told him that the birds might aid him. The magician then made him a drink that would help him to understand the birds.

On his way, he asked birds and they lead him to the home of the witch-maiden. She offered him King Solomon's ring in return for three drops of blood but the birds warned him not to give her any blood. The boy tricked her by saying he didn’t believe the ring gave the power of invisibility or the power to fly, so she showed him and then let him try it. That’s when he escaped with the power of invisibility and flew away.

Back at the home of the magician, he asked him to read the ring’s inscription and directions on how to tame the dragon. Finally armed with the ring and the directions, he went to the kingdom where a king offered his daughter and half his kingdom to anyone who could tame the dragon. So the boy used the ring to tame the dragon and rode him. He directed the dragon to fly far away. The king was so grateful the gave the boy half his kingdom. He and the princess became best friends and later and they married.

We have art so that we shall not die of reality.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Published with Lulu

This fairy tale has been shortened to fit into my book along with all the other letters of the alphabet. If you would like to read the full version, you can Google the title and find several versions of The Dragon of the North.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with Lulu.com because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.

— Henry Ward Beecher

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. Lately, I’ve been doing some research to begin another one. There were so many stories I had to pass over with the first book because there was just not enough room or letters in the alphabet. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Comments

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on February 06, 2020:

I hadn't heard this fairy tale - that's a new one to me. Your collage dragon is lovely and spiky, that has given it a great appearance!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 02, 2020:

Lovely story. Excellent idea as well.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Marie Flint,

So sorry about not having a video for this one. This was one of the first illustrations created for the book and it was before I had started videotaping the footage of my work. I had to begin sometime. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

I'm glad you like the series. I hoped to stir up enough interest to sell a few of the books as well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

Thank you so much. The clay model was pretty rough. I didn't work a lot of detail into it because all I wanted was the directional light and shadow casting. It took some time but was worth it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Bill Holland,

Oh my, I'm feeling the love! I'm happy you like my series. I've sold 2 books so far. Something to rejoice about. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Devika Primić,

I am happy you like my story. My hope was to have a storybook that parents would feel good about reading to their children and that the children could eventually read for themselves. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

You should buy my book, hint, hint. I'm so happy you think it is worthy of reading to your son. Let me know how he likes it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 29, 2020:

Lorna Lamon,

Yes. When you are making something up like this image and know there will be no photos available for correct placement of shadows and light, a model is the best bet. Otherwise, you are just guessing and it will show in the final work. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on January 29, 2020:

I was so ready to view your video of collage for the cover. You must not have had equipment, time, or something to be able to create one.

Estonia is just south of my great-grandfather's homeland, Finland!

Blessings!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 28, 2020:

It was a wonderful idea to create articles that combine your illustrations with a fairy tale. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are interesting. Thanks for creating another enjoyable article in the series, Denise.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 28, 2020:

I was especially interested in your sharing of the techniques you used for drawing. I would not have thought of using a clay model to help in the process. This book sounds like a work of art.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 28, 2020:

I love this series.I love this story. And I love your illustrations. A whole lot of love coming your way. :)

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 28, 2020:

Hi Denise these stories are interesting and worth a read. You have created an excellent outlay on this hub and a fascinating model. You made an effort and showed a informative hub. Kudos to you on this one.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 27, 2020:

Wow what a lot of work. I just love the stories. Worth a read to my son. Thanks.

Lorna Lamon on January 27, 2020:

I enjoy reading these wonderful stories from different lands Denise and this one is no exception. Incredible art and I was intrigued by how you created a clay model of the dragon to help with placement of shadows. A lot of work has gone into this. Excellent article.