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The Last of the Thunderbirds, An Eskimo Folk 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.

The Last of the Thunderbirds, An Eskimo Folk Tale

The Last of the Thunderbirds, An Eskimo Folk Tale

Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World

Last year, I finished a children’s alphabet book using fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as the theme. I had some trouble with Amazon saying they wouldn’t carry my book because of the illustrations, 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. Recently, I discovered that Amazon does have the paperback listed after all but not the digital version ebook. That is still available on Lulu though.

After I danced the happy dance at my success, I noticed that there were a lot more fairy tales out there that I didn’t use, 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 here is the twentieth letter in the new book for the letter T.

“If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other--the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales.”

— G.K. Chesterton

Thumbnail roughs

Thumbnail roughs

The Last of the Thunderbirds, An Eskimo Folk Tale

In ancient times, in the far north, there lived many giant eagles or thunderbirds as the Eskimo called them. They made their nests on top of mountains and great rocky crags from which to see all the land and rivers below them. They could swoop down and seize a reindeer or bear and would sometimes steal a fisherman and his boat from off the water to feed their young. Only the most daring would venture onto the rivers to fish because of the great thunderbirds.

One day a brave warrior was heading out to check his many traps by the water and he warned his pretty mother before leaving to stay inside. It was a dangerous time when the thunderbirds were feeding their young. After he left, his mother thought she should fetch some water to make a stew while her son worked. She ventured out with her water jar and then heard the loud swoop of wings but it was too late. The thunderbird had caught her in his talons and carried her away. The villagers wailed and cried at the loss. When the young warrior returned they all told him how the bird took his pretty mother away.

Without a word or a tear, the young warrior went into his empty house and got down his bow and his war arrows. The villagers tried to tell him not to go after the birds. “You will be eaten too. What use is it to sacrifice your life? Your pretty mother is already gone.” But nothing could dissuade him from his cause.

He slowly climbed the great mountain until he reached the top where the nest was. All the older birds were out hunting but the young fledglings were there in the nest and shrill screeching, they waddled toward him. He stood and let fly arrow after arrow until all the hateful birds were dead. Then he hid behind some bear's bones to wait for the adult birds to come home.

With vengeance in his heart, he didn’t have to wait long. The first of the parent birds cried from across the river and flew to the quiet bloody nest. The parent birds raged looking for the one who had killed their young. The young warrior stepped from behind the bones and began firing arrow after arrow at the mother bird. She came roaring down toward him and he sent his arrow into her throat, killing her. The father bird was circling overhead and raged and came at the warrior who ducked behind the bear’s bones so that the great thunderbird missed him and only grabbed some old bones. As he flew away, the warrior jumped out and sent two war shafts into the father bird’s wings. Screeching in rage, the father bird floated away toward the northland and was never seen again.

The young warrior found many necklaces and bracelets among the bones in the bottom of the nest. Finally, he found the ring his mother wore and taking it to the river’s edge, he placed it in a boat and set it on fire to honor her ghost and give her rest.

refined Thumbnail sketch

refined Thumbnail sketch

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references of boys with bow and arrows, eagles, and Eskimos. In the end, I used a good stock photo I had found in Pixabay of a boy with a bow and arrow along with some Eskimo faces. 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 felt this one needed some background color. I played with several colors before deciding on the gold.

Value sketch

Value sketch

The most important thing is this: to be ready at any moment to sacrifice what you are for what you could become.

— Charles Dickens

Will Be 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 the story as The Last of the Thunderbirds. With only 6 more illustrations to do, I just may be finished with the whole book and ready to publish by the end of this year.

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. This collage contains

Color composition

Color composition

“O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.”

— Leo Rosten

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? It was sad that the little mother died but it was all that was needed for the warrior to chase off the thunderbirds and end the killing.

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase the first one alphabet book on Lulu or Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Finished illustration

Finished illustration

Comments

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

Chitrangada Sharan,

I appreciate the good wishes for my success. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

Umesh Chandra Bhatt,

Thanks. I'm glad you like it. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 11, 2020:

Excellent illustrations and a great engaging story. The end is, what it should be--wonderful.

Your work is unique, because of your creative art. I wish you all the success.

Thank you for sharing.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 11, 2020:

Nice one. Thanks.

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

justthemessenger,

Yes, he did. What else could he do? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

billybuc,

I hope you aren't getting tired of telling me that. I love reading your praises. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

DDE,

It was fun to try and find so many from around the world and try and cover each culture at least once. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

Ankita B,

I agree. I don't like the idea of killing when it isn't for food but these birds were a menace so there is that. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

Jodah,

I agree. It is the same with tigers and other beasts of prey who killed people. I wouldn't want all tigers killed off as a species but they needed to be controlled somehow. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

AliciaC,

I was so tempted to change the story and have him find his mother alive, but that wouldn't have been true to the original story so I left that sad part. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

emge,

I'm so happy you like the illustrations in my series. They take me so much time and planning. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

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

Peggy W,

He was certainly brave. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

James C Moore from The Great Midwest on December 10, 2020:

What can I say? He had to do what he had to do.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 10, 2020:

You know I love your stories, and you know I adore your drawings. I don't think there's anything to add to that. :) Blessings always, my friend. Excellent work!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 10, 2020:

Denise this is a wonderful piece of work about an Eskimo Folk Tale. You have put together an interesting lot of tales from around the world.

Ankita B on December 09, 2020:

Wonderful story as always, Denise. It was sad that the warrior lost his mother and the Thunderbirds had to be destroyed but then the villagers were free from all the trouble. Your illustrations are perfect as well.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 09, 2020:

Another great story, Denise. A pity the Thunderbirds had to be destroyed but they couldn’t be left to kill people. As always your illustrations are superb.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 09, 2020:

As always, the story is interesting and educational and your art is lovely. It was good to read that the young warrior protected his village but sad to hear that the mother died. I like the fact that some fairy and folk tales don't shy away from the harder aspects of life, though.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 09, 2020:

Nice story . Eskimos are wonderful people though have never interacted with an Eskimo. This story was wonderful to read about an isolated community that has a lot of culture.Illustrations are a beauty

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

The brave young warrior avenged his mother's death, and at the same time, helped to save villagers from the same fate that took his mother. Well done! As always, your art is spectacular!

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

surovi99,

It is always sad when a species is killed off but in this case, I think it was warranted. I so happy you like this series. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Rosina S Khan on December 09, 2020:

This is a wonderful Eskimo folk tale. Although the thunderbirds killed the young warrior's mother, it only initiated and urged him to kill the species of thunderbirds. He let the ghost of his mother rest in peace while the villagers benefited from a danger-free life now that all the species of thunder birds were killed by the warrior.

I enjoy all your folk and fairy tales, Denise because they always have a moral at the end to teach us. Great job on the collage illustrations as usual. Thanks for sharing.