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Urashima Taro, a Japanese 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.

Illustration for Urashima Taro, A Japanese Fairy Tale

Illustration for Urashima Taro, A Japanese Fairy 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 twenty-first letter in the new book for the letter U.

Fairy tales help us earth-bound people to be able to soar to the stars on the wings of imagination.

— Denise McGill

Thumbnail Roughs

Thumbnail Roughs

Urashima Taro, a Japanese Fairy Tale

Long ago in Japan, there lived a poor fisherman barely making a living selling his daily catch of fish. All his sisters and brothers, mother and father had died and he was alone. He longed for a family but he did not make enough to support even himself yet. He needed to be a much better fisherman first.

One day while fishing, Urashima Taro caught a very large strange turtle in his net. This turtle would bring a very good price and Urashima was very happy. He began to think of all he could buy with the sale of this one turtle. Just as Urashima Taro decided to pull the turtle into his boat, the turtle spoke to him. The turtle begged Urashima Taro not to kill it and he would reward the fisherman by taking him to the Dragon Palace beneath the sea. The fisherman thought what a shame it would be to lose the price of the turtle but finally, he decided to let the turtle go.

The turtle was true to his word and took the fisherman to the Dragon Palace on his back. There the fisherman saw many beautiful and amazing things. All the sea people were happy to meet Urashima Taro when the turtle told of his kindness. They threw him a feast that lasted for days. Then the princess Otohime danced for him as a reward. She was the most beautiful creature that the fisherman had ever seen. He decided to stay several days being treated and entertained by the sea folk.

When it was time for him to return to the land the princess Otohime gave the fisherman a beautifully decorated box made of pearls. She told him only to open it at the end of his life. When Urashima Taro returned to the land he found that he had not been gone only a week as he imagined. He had been gone for 100 years and all his friends were dead. He couldn’t understand it. He was much grieved by the loss of all that he knew and then he remembered the box that the princess Otohime gave him. Thinking his life was over anyway, he opened the box and suddenly turned into an old man.

The refined Thumbnail

The refined Thumbnail

Collage Illustrations

I looked through several photo references of boys in boats, turtles, mermaids and undersea photos. In the end, I used a composite I made a couple years ago of a boy riding an undersea turtle. The boy was from a photo I had taken myself and the turtle was from a Pixabay stock photo. 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 an ocean background, of course.

Value Sketch

Value Sketch

“The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.”

— W.H. Auden

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 Urashima Taro. With only 5 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 some nautilus shells, a bird, some dolphins jumping, a sea turtle, and some small fish.

Color Composition

Color Composition

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

— Alexandre Dumas

Final Thoughts

Did you like this story’s ending? Like many Japanese and Chinese fairy tales, the ending is a bit sad and somewhat twisted. I would have hoped he could have returned to the undersea world if that much time went by, but I guess you can never go back.

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 January 03, 2021:

Lora Hollings,

What a sweet thing to do. I would be so honored to be in your local library. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lora Hollings on January 01, 2021:

I love your illustration and collage, Denise. It is colorful and delicate and reminds me of a Japanese watercolor. Your book is coming along beautifully. I will have to get a copy and donate it to our local library here as they are always looking for high quality children’s books. You are so gifted. And Happy New Year!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 01, 2021:

Mary Norton,

I imagine it was pretty crazy. I didn't order any copies for myself either. I will later on. I like to have a few on hand for the grandkids and for gifts. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 01, 2021:

What a beautiful story. I have checked out Lulu but the shipping last Christmas was crazy so I gave up buying but will do so when time allows.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 27, 2020:

DDE,

I'm very happy that writing and art are things I can still do even here in lockdown. It makes me happy to connect across the miles with my fellow writers like you. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 27, 2020:

Hi Denise, hope you are having an enjoyable festive season. It is interesting to know that you are writing during this time. The fabulous tales you write about are from many parts of the world and that is what makes it so unique. Great presentations from you.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Linda Crampton,

It does make you stop and think, doesn't it? Do you think the moral is "When an undersea princess tells you not to do something, DON'T do it?" Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Peggy Woods,

I'm so happy you think I'm superb. I'm ready to face my day now with that ringing in my ears. Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Pamela Oglesby,

I'm very excited to have this one done and published as well. Then... I don't know... I guess I'll start another one. I'm having so much fun, why stop now? Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Rosina S Khan,

Yes, I didn't expect the ending either. I wish it was happier. Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays to you.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Chitrangada Sharan,

Most artists are not writers and I'm really stretching myself trying to be both but I sure am enjoying having something to illustrate that makes me happy. Thanks for commenting, and Happy Holidays.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

Ann Carr,

That's a good moral, maybe I'll include it. Thanks for commenting. Happy Holidays.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 24, 2020:

MG Singh emge,

I'm glad you liked the story. These innocent stories are my favorite. I suppose I'm a child at heart or I have my head in the sand, but I prefer them to the current news as well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 23, 2020:

I liked the story and loved your illustrations, but as others have said, the ending of the tale was strange. Thank you for sharing a thought-provoking story, Denise.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 23, 2020:

That is a rather strange tale, but as always, your artwork is superb.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 23, 2020:

I really like the collages. All the pictures were unique and appealing. I was surprised at the end of the story but it is interesting.

I do think it is terrific that you have published a children's book, Denise.

Rosina S Khan on December 23, 2020:

Thank you, Denise, for this fairy tale. I wasn't prepared for the ending and didn't expect it that way. Nevertheless, the collage illustrations are beautiful as always. Thanks for a unique share.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 23, 2020:

Good and engaging story. I enjoy reading fairy tales.

Your art work is excellent, and I loved the way they complement the story. You have a unique talent and I wish you all the best for your book.

Thank you for sharing.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on December 23, 2020:

To be honest, Bill, I didn't care for the ending either. I would have liked for him to be about to return or at least be enriched by the experience. Maybe he should have written his memoirs and published them! Thanks for commenting as always.

Blessings,

Denise

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 23, 2020:

I love the layering in your artwork. It's like seeing a different painting/sketch every single time you look at it. Bravo! The story, interesting. Not sure I liked the ending, but that's okay. :)

Happy Holidays, my friend, and blessings always

bill

Ann Carr from SW England on December 23, 2020:

Yes, Denise, I too thought it was rather sad. I suppose it's a story telling us that we must obey or we'll spoil everything, or some such moral.

Again, your illustrations are superb and I love the quotes about fairy tales. Your presentation is unique to you and very good.

Ann

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 23, 2020:

Thanks, Its wonderful to read a refreshing fairy tale with all the tension of Covid 18 and China hogging everything.