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Geirlug, the King’s Daughter, An Icelandic 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.

geirlug-the-kings-daughter-an-icelandic-fairy-tale

The Alphabet Book So Far

Last year, I finished a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as the theme. It was so much fun for me to illustrate using my collage method that I couldn’t wait to get it published and distributed. Amazon refused to carry a book with the illustrations stretching across two pages.

My solution was to acknowledge that Amazon isn’t the only self-publishing venue available so I went to Lulu and got my first alphabet book published: The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, available only on Lulu.

After I danced the happy dance at my success, I decided that there were a lot more fairy tales out there, enough to make a whole series using global fairy tales and folk tales. Thus the conception of my second alphabet book began. I have only been working on it since February and so I haven’t finished very many of the illustrations. Here is the seventh letter in the new book for the letter G.

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.

— Alexandre Dumas

Rough thumbnail possiblilities

Rough thumbnail possiblilities

Geirlug, the King’s Daughter, An Icelandic Fairy Tale

In a faraway country, a king and queen had lovely baby twins. One day they were walking in their garden with the babies when a dragon came and carried off one of their sons. The dragon flew to a neighboring kingdom where it tried to steal a baby princess, Geirlug as well. Seeing the dragon, the king struck it before it could carry off the princess and in so doing, the dragon dropped the prince. Since the king and queen didn’t know where the prince had come from, they decided to raise him as their own and named him Grethari. Geirlug and Grethari were very happy together until the day that the queen died.

Years later, the king remarried a beautiful woman. This new queen was an evil witch. When she knew she was carrying a baby, she wanted to kill Grethari and Geirlug so her child would be the heir to the kingdom. She took them outside the castle and turned them into two black foals and then sent the guards out to kill any animals that were around the palace. When the guards saw the little black foals they could not bring themselves to kill such beautiful creatures so they let them go. The next day the spell wore off and Grethari and Geirlug returned to the palace. So the evil queen turned them into two bluebirds and this time asked the king to go out and kill any birds around the palace. He heard the bluebirds singing so sweetly he forgot the queen’s request.

The next day the spell wore off and the two children decided not to go back to the palace. Instead, they hid in the woods and lived in a woodcutter’s hut. They hunted and raised chickens and lived happily for some time. Eventually, the queen discovered that they were seen in the woods. Some helpful fairies warned them to travel further and further away from the palace. After a while, they crossed over into the next kingdom.

When they spoke with the people there, everyone treated the young prince with awe and kindness. This surprised children. They couldn’t think why everyone seemed to recognize the prince. One day they decided to go to the palace of the king and queen in that kingdom. When the king and queen saw Grethari they rushed to him and embraced him. Then they told him the story of a dragon that had stolen him from their arms many years before. Then they called for the prince, Grethari’s brother. The two looked so much alike; there was no doubt that he was the stolen prince from long ago. So they stayed with the king and queen and were very happy. When they were old enough, Grethari married Geirlug.

The thumbnail refined

The thumbnail refined

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references of girls and boys, plus forests for this illustration. In the end, I ended up using a good photo I took myself of a girl I knew who posed for me to get the viewpoint I wanted. I took photos of her skipping and picking flowers, feeding ducks, and playing. I decided to use a view of the girl skipping and the boy on a fallen tree for this page. I hope you enjoy seeing my progress on the collage. Sometimes after finishing the collage, I need to make a background layer using Photoshop. I decided this one needed some green gradient background added.

Value Sketch

Value Sketch

“Fear isn't so difficult to understand. After all, weren't we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It's just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.”

— Alfred Hitchcock

Due To Be Published with Lulu by Next July

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 the story as the Geirlug, the King’s Daughter or Geirlug and Grethari. I expect to be finished and ready to publish by July next year.

Isn’t it interesting how many fairy tales have a similar theme running through them such as wicked step-mothers, witches, stolen princes, and dragons? I hate the wicked stepmother icon because I was a stepmother. I never felt it more acutely that when I asked my stepdaughter to clean the ashes from the fireplace for the first time. She looked at me horrified like I had transformed into her worst nightmare. But honestly, it was her turn.

Hidden Pictures

In my collages, I use paper from magazines, old wall calendars, catalogs, and circulars. Often I will add things into a collage you can't see unless you are looking for it like hidden pictures. In this collage, you will find a painter at his easel and two cowgirls with sunglasses.

Color Composition

Color Composition

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

— Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? It seemed anticlimactic not to have the stepmother queen punished in some way. But she still has to deal with the king’s sorrow at losing his daughter and adopted son.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 17, 2020:

William Kovacic,

It is true. Every people have tales and fairy tales to live by. If you look long enough you can find them. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on August 17, 2020:

An Icelandic Fairy Tale! would have never thought of that, Denise, but I guess fairy tales reach out to every generation of all areas. this is no exception. As always, Great artwork.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 14, 2020:

Marie Flint,

I'm glad you are finding my value sketches helpful. I find them so also. It helps me see where the lights and darks will fall before I begin with color. Our eyes can fool us. When working with reds, you think you have it light but in reality, red is dark. I used to try to skip steps because it gets so long and drawn out but when I skip a step something invariably will go wrong and I will kick myself later when I have to do the piece over again. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 13, 2020:

Another great story, and another great job, Denise. I felt smug when the wicked stepmother just couldn't keep those kids out of the palace.

Your collection of possibilities you are considering is much appreciated. The value images are especially helpful.

Keep up the excellent, wonderful work!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 13, 2020:

Mary Norton,

You know in the book I will be publishing, I will only have the finished work. I've enjoyed sharing the process here because you get to see the thumbnails, value sketches, and color composition, all before the collage even starts. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 13, 2020:

Devika Primić,

I think so too. The fairy tales from other countries have different endings and different focuses on the traditional fairy tales I grew up with. I was hoping to capture this. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 12, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

It was hard with the first book where over half of the stories I had created the illustrations before thinking about recording the process so they didn't have a video to share with them. As long as I keep the camera rolling, I will have a video to share with each story. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 12, 2020:

MG Singh,

Great comments like this make it all worth my time and effort. You spark me to go on each day. Thanks for the comments.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 12, 2020:

Abby Slutsky,

Thank you. I haven't even made it the half-way point yet ("M" is usually considered half-way through the alphabet) so I will be publishing more of these before I see the finished book. I appreciate your confidence. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 12, 2020:

John Hansen,

Don't feel bad. My keyboard does some strange things to me too sometimes. I was able to decipher it so no problems. You made me laugh though. Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 11, 2020:

Ivana Divac,

I'm so happy you are enjoying this trip around the world with fairy tales. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 11, 2020:

Drew Agravante,

I thought these would make very fine gifts as well, which is why I am publishing them in book form. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 11, 2020:

RoadMonkey,

Thank you. That is exactly what I'm hoping to do. Maybe 3 or 5 books in the series. We shall see. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 11, 2020:

I wish you the best in your publication of these fairy tales. They are very engaging, primarily because of your artwork.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 11, 2020:

Denise the Icelandic fairytale is unique to me and I see that you have an illustration that is amazing. I enjoy reading fairy tales and from around the world has a different side to it.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 10, 2020:

This is another enjoyable fairy tale. It is interesting that similar characters appear in different stories. The dragon is my favorite character. I love the fact that you share the story, your art, and the related video in your articles.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 10, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

Yes. My intention is to get fairy tales from places we don't usually hear them from. I wanted my book to unusual in the illustrations and in the stories I found. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 10, 2020:

Linda Lum,

Me too. I think sweet and innocent is more appealing than the seductive type of princess. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 10, 2020:

Bill Holland,

Thanks for all your support. Have I said that too many times? I covet your good opinion so much. Does that make me sound too needy? Well, so be it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 10, 2020:

I like your fairy tales and the best part is that they have global tinge. This one was very interesting and I look forward to many more.

Abby Slutsky from America on August 09, 2020:

As always, this was delightful to read. Good luck with your book.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 09, 2020:

Well, I just reread my comment. I apologise for not proofreading it as soon as I wrote it. Sometimes my iPad keyboard does weird things like misses letters and changes words on me..this was obviously the case as it makes no sense. Please feel free to delete it.

Ivana Divac from Serbia on August 09, 2020:

Wonderful job, of course. Someone already said it, but it's like you're taking all of us on a trip around the world with these stories, and moreover, the illustrations are adding to the unique magic you're creating. This fairy tale captivated me, and I was truly touched to see it had a happy ending.

Drew Agravante from Philippines, Currently in Qatar on August 09, 2020:

Sometimes these fairy tales could actually teach us a lot if we just look deeper. I like it. A goody especially for the little ones. I should gift them this kind of piece instead of gadgets.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 09, 2020:

Liz Westwood,

I super happy you think so. I love the happily ever after type of story, don't you? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

RoadMonkey on August 09, 2020:

Another great story I hadn't heard of before. With all your research, you will also be able to publish a whole series of unknown fairy tales!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2020:

I enjoyed the ending of this fairy tale. You are taking us around the world with these different stories. As always, your illustrations are wonderful.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 09, 2020:

John Hansen,

I hope so too. Really glad you like this one. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 09, 2020:

Another beautiful collage. Your prince and princess look so sweet and innocent. I'm glad they endured.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 09, 2020:

I have run out of nice things to say. I love the idea, the process, the tales, and the sketching. What more is there?

Blessings on this fine Sunday morning!

bill

Liz Westwood from UK on August 09, 2020:

This is a lovely tale with a very happy ever after ending despite dangers along the way. You have done it justice with your illustration.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 09, 2020:

I enjoyed this tale and also your progress creating the collage pics. I age the evil Stepmother queen deserved to be punished too. I am she was.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2020:

Lorna Lamon

I'm happy you like it. I love happy endings too. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2020:

Ann Carr,

I do hope it is. Thanks for saying that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2020:

Eric Dierker,

Awesome. I hope she does do some children's books. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 08, 2020:

Danny,

I have noticed that these appeal even to people who were never fond of fairy tales before. I'm glad of that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lorna Lamon on August 08, 2020:

I loved the happy ending in this tale and I think the stepmother will get what is coming to her. Once again good triumphs over evil. The collage is beautiful Denise, and I feel there is a wistful look on the face of the boy as he appears to be lost in memories. Another wonderful addition.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 08, 2020:

Another lovely tale and beautiful illustrations, Denise. Good conquering evil always goes down well!

That book is going to be exceptional!

Ann

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 08, 2020:

You told this story so well. Such beauty in their perseverance together. I bet both princes were good friends except some jealousy due to the princess hihihi

I am forwarding this to my youngest daughter. It is time she began doing children's books.

Danny from India on August 08, 2020:

I am not so much into reading fairy tales, but your take on this was different. The way of collecting different materials for collages is excellent.

Amazing tips Denise.