As a kid I remember being freaked-out watching Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, to the extent that I had nightmares about it. One of those stories that has stuck in my head is Hans the Hedgehog, one of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. When I first saw Shaun Tan’s new book The Singing Bones I was reminded of the dark tales that Jim Henson told, especially when I saw the sculpture that Shaun had created for the Hans My Hedgehog story. In The Singing Bones Shaun Tan brings Grimms’ fairy tales to life like never before.
Nameless princes, wicked stepsisters, greedy kings, honourable peasants and ruthless witches, tales of love, betrayal, adventure and magical transformation: all inspiration for this stunning gallery of sculptural works. Introduced by Grimm Tales author Philip Pullman and leading fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes, The Singing Bones breathes new life into some of the world’s most beloved fairy tales.
The Singing Bones is a truly breath-taking book! To hold this book in your hands is like holding a portable art exhibition. Shaun has taken 75 fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and created a sculpture to perfectly capture the tone of the story. Shaun Tan has said that ‘…there’s a strong sense in every story collected by the Brothers Grimm that the separation between the waking and the dreaming worlds is actually quite thin, that they bleed into each other…Strung between the real and the unreal, the literary and the impossible, convincing and absurd.’ Shaun’s sculptures certainly look like they come from some sort of dream place. Each of the sculptures are accompanied by the title and an extract of the fairy tale. I love just opening to a random page and seeing what fairy tale I unearth. There are plenty of tales that I haven’t come across before and will hunt out the full story.
Take a look at a small selection of the pages from this breath-taking book:
Each of Shaun’s sculptures are created by papier mâché and air-drying clay, which is then carved back and painted with acrylics, oxidised metal powder, wax and shoe polish. My favourite sculptures are The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, Rumpelstiltskin, All Fur, and Hans My Hedgehog (let’s face it they’re all stunning!).
The Singing Bones is aimed more at adults, rather than children, as I’m sure some children will be scared by the illustrations. Having said this, I think that the sculptures would make great story starters as they are sure to fire imaginations. It is a beautiful book to treasure, especially for those who love fairy tales or how are fans of the incredibly talented Shaun Tan.