Illustrating 'Once Upon A Time'

Illustrating 'Once Upon A Time' - poster

Illustrating 'Once Upon A Time'

This exhibit was curated and designed by Scout Noffke, Reference and Adminstrative Specialist at Rauner Special Collections Library. The onsite exhibit was installed by Deborah Howe and Lizzie Curran.

The digital exhibit was designed by Scout Noffke and may be accessed via this link:

You may download a handlist of the items in this exhibition via this link: OnceUponATime_Handlist.pdf. A printable version of the poster can also be downloaded.

Materials Included in the Exhibition


Once upon a time, Charles Perrault published a small volume of French fairy tales, many of which were appearing in print for the very first time. Alongside early versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and others, was a series of tiny engraved illustrations showing key moments in the stories. Perrault’s writing contributed to an evolving canon of European fairy tales, but the art that accompanied his tales was also significant, showing a changing relationship between the word and image in storytelling.

Rauner Special Collections Library holds many illustrated books that highlight the artistic lineage of fairy tales. Three hundred years of illustration demonstrate not just the way artists represented the printed word, but the development of certain thematic trends within the stories. Like folk and fairy tales themselves, published works of art are pieces in conversation with each other. Artists know and draw inspiration from one another, and by looking at multiple iterations of the same or similar stories, one begins to see what scholar Elizabeth Newton describes as “networks of thought.”

This exhibit traces those networks in five well-known European fairy tales in Dartmouth Library’s collections. Over time, the illustrations for each story reveal through-lines of thought that either transform as they move from one artist to the next or repeat a visual theme again and again, adding to an artistic legacy by way of repetition and response.   


1. Charles Perrault. Histories, or, Tales of past times : told by Mother Goose, with morals. Salisbury: B. Collins, 1777. Rare Book PQ1877 .A2 1777 

The earliest Bluebeard illustrations focused on moments just before or after great violence. The engraving in Perrault’s first edition, copied here almost a hundred years later in cruder detail, depicts a split scene with the new wife’s brothers coming to rescue her on one side and Bluebeard raising his sword to kill her on the other.

2. Steedman, Amy. Stories from Grimm: told to the children. Illustrated by Harry Rountree. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1908? Sine Illus R78sto

Breaking from the scenes more traditionally illustrated in this story, Harry Rountree (1878-1950) shows a domestic scene of Snow White and the dwarves reading and crafting together. She is the focal point: all her companions are turned to her, and one even appears to be painting her portrait.

3. Bell, Florence Eveleen Eleanore Olliffe. Fairy tale plays and how to act them. Illustrated by Lancelot Speed. London; New York: Longmans, Green, 1910. Sine Illus S655fai

Lancelot Speed (1860-1931), best known for his work on the Lang fairy books, provided illustrations and diagrams for this book of fairy tale plays for children. Here the wolf, crouched on two feet with a near-lascivious expression, waits behind a tree for Red to be alone.

4. The Old fairy tales: comprising Hop-o'-my-thumb and Beauty and the beast. Illustrated by H.M. Brock. London; New York: Frederick Warne, 1932. Sine Illus B762olh

H.M. Brock (1875-1960) was a celebrated artist of adventure stories, literary classics, and children’s books. Continuing a trend of gentlemanly Beasts, Brock’s stylish depiction feels human in all but literal physicality.

5. Fairy tales. Illustrated by Margaret Tarrant. London: Ward, Lock & Co., 1915. Sine Illus T27fai

English children’s author and illustrator Margaret Tarrant (1888-1959) is known primarily for her watercolors of fairies and religious subjects. The cover of her volume of fairy tales shows a scene from Little Red Riding Hood, though the wolf and girl will not remain as friendly as they look here.

6. Grimm’s fairy tales. Illustrated by George Soper. London: Allen & Unwin, 1935? Sine Illus S57gri

George Soper (1870-1942) depicts a moment in the story when the huntsman is supposed to kill Snow White, but as he looks at her, he falters. Elsewhere in this version, we see another illustration showing the vain queen alone with her reflection.

7. Little Red Ridinghood. Illustrated by Mrs. Francis Paschal. Kenosha, Wis.: John Martin's House, 1949. Illus P26lir

This “television book” is illustrated in a style similar to that of the increasingly popular Little Golden Books. Most of the illustrations include a whole menagerie of wildlife following Red, and so the wolf comes across as less threatening and more a part of the scenery.



A little girl once dawdled on a woodland path while making her way to Grandmother’s house, and there she met a wolf both alluring and threatening. As an early and enduring tale of what today’s audience might call “stranger danger,” Little Red Riding Hood invites a lot of speculative interpretation. Freud and his ilk would (and did) have a field day, but they aren’t alone. Often, the potentially sexual elements of the story have been singled out for analysis – the slavering “wolf” stalking the innocent girl for unseemly purposes - at the exclusion of other noteworthy themes. Despite or because of this, Red’s story is sometimes rewritten as either a bawdy horror tale or one of sexual liberation. 

Illustrators over time have chosen either to highlight or completely excise the more unsavory undertones. The bare bones of the story are provocative enough that doing so requires deliberate decision-making, with such scenes as the wolf accosting the child in the woods, or the climatic tableau in which the wolf – disguised as Grandmother – lays in bed and pulls her close. No matter when or how the tale is illustrated, however, the two remain locked in their cycle of deception, devouring, and—only sometimes—escape.  


1. Charles Perrault. Histoires du temps passé, ou, Les contes de ma Mère l'Oye : avec des moralités. [Londres & se trouve à Bruxelles]: chez B. Le Francq, 1785. Rare Book PQ1877 .C513 1785

In Charles Perrault’s version of the story, there is no happy ending. The wolf eats Grandmother and then Little Red Riding Hood – and that’s that. It’s grim and abrupt, and the illustration featured in this early version reflects that outlook. A nightmarish wolf attacks the screaming grandmother in her bed, with Red nowhere to be seen.

2. Little red riding hood. Otley : Yorkshire J.S. Pub. & Stationery Co., c. 1840. Rare Book PZ8 .L725

Chapbooks were small, cheap pamphlets whose subject matter was often sensational or rigidly moral. This one, where Poor Red has her clothes torn away and is eaten up with no reprieve, manages to be both.

3. Bayley, F. W. N., Albert Smith and Alfred Crowquill. Crowquill's fairy book: containing elegant poetical versions of Jack the giant killer, Little Red riding hood, Blue beard and Beauty and the beast. New York: Hurst & Co., date of publication unknown. Sine Illus C76cro

Caricaturist Alfred Crowquill’s extensively illustrated version of Little Red Riding Hood shows a wolf nearly the same size as the child, equal parts goofy and perverse in demeanor. Despite a series of expressions that gives the viewer the sense that this wolf is profoundly without a plan, he pulls it off. There is no rescue in this iteration, though the wolf does feel remorse “at his own cruelty.”

4. Very, Lydia. Red riding hood. Boston: L. Prang, 1863. 1926 Coll V489

All framed within a booklet shaped like the silhouette of Red herself, these illustrations by Lydia Very (1823-1901) are small by necessity. As a result, they focus on details, and the vignette of the girl’s cloak draped over a chair-back feels particularly intimate.

5. Crane, Walter. Red Riding Hood's picture book : containing Little Red Riding Hood, Jack & the beanstalk, The forty thieves. London ; New York : John Lane, 1898. Sine Illus C735red

Walter Crane (1845-1915) was a leading “nursery illustrator” of the Golden Age. His wolf has significantly more human aspects than the previous examples, walking on two feet with good manners and clothes of literal sheepskin.

6. Sowerby, Githa. Grimm’s fairy tales. Illustrated by Millicent Sowerby. London : Grant Richards, 1909. Sine Illus S58gri

Given to cheery postcard scenes featuring round-faced babies, Millicent Sowerby (1878-1967) also illustrated her sister Githa’s children’s books for more than two decades. Here, her surprisingly funny illustration shows a wolf who can’t believe how well this is going and a girl who’s beginning to grow suspicious.

7. Douglas, Barbara. Favourite French fairy tales: retold from the French of Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy and Madame Le Prince de Beaumont. Illustrated by Rie Cramer. London: G.G. Harrap & Co. ltd., 1921.  Sine Illus C734fav

One of the few illustrations in this set to leave the wolf out entirely, Rie Cramer (1887-1977) instead elects to focus on the child looking around as if she knows something is wrong. As an illustrator, Cramer’s own style became simpler, brighter, and more saccharine over time. Check out her Hansel and Gretel illustration on the previous page as a comparison.

8. De Regniers, Beatrice Schenk. Red Riding Hood; retold in verse for boys and girls to read themselves. Illustrated by Edward Gorey. New York: Atheneum, 1972. Illus G675der

Edward Gorey (1925-2000) is known for his pen and ink drawings, simple in style but highly evocative of both humor and a certain grimness. His shady wolf and suspicious little girl are no exception.

9. Hyman, Trina Schart. Little red riding hood. New York: Holiday House, 1983. Illus H997hylr

Slide One: The prolific Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004) is characterized by her lush, romantic, and highly emotive illustrations. In her version of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf has a downright friendly appearance – furry, funny, and almost sweet. That is – until he’s not.



Bluebeard, a French fairy tale first published in Charles Perrault’s 1697 Histoires du temps passé, ou, Les contes de ma Mère l’Oye, known in English as The Tales of Mother Goose, has been retold over and over again, and deeply affected the development of the gothic and horror literary genres. Dartmouth Library’s illustrated book collections also highlight a curious trend: published depictions of Bluebeard, a French fairy tale, became highly Orientalized over time. 

The illustrations in the first literary versions were either decidedly European or included too little detail to be tied to a specific setting. The characters were also largely unnamed (apart from Bluebeard himself and the new bride’s sister, Anne). But in the late 18th century, amidst growing fads for the “Oriental,” Michael Kelly and George Colman the Younger created a new adaptation of the story for the London stage. “Blue Beard; or, Female Curiosity!” (1798) included characters named Abomelique, Fatima, Irene, and Selim, and was relocated to Turkey. This reimagining of Bluebeard as an exotic Turkish despot was an instant hit. Kelly and Colman’s adaptation managed to tap into the wrong idea at just the right time for it to take hold. The character of Bluebeard as racial Other flourished in the West, generating a series of Orientalist interpretations that persisted well into the 20th century.


1. Perrault, Charles. Histoires ou Contes du temps passé: avec des moralitez. Amsterdam: Jaques Desbordes, 1697. Rare Book PQ1877 .C513 1697

The earliest Bluebeard illustrations focused on moments just before or after great violence. The engraving in Perrault’s first edition (copied here in an unauthorized edition the same year) depicts a split scene with the new wife’s brothers coming to rescue her on one side and Bluebeard raising his sword to kill her on the other. 

2. Blackbeard, Gaffer. A new history of Bluebeard. New Haven: Sidney’s Press, 1805. 1926 Coll B587n 1805

Adopting the names provided by the 1798 play that popularized the Oriental trend, this iteration of Bluebeard works to provide a thoroughly “exotic” setting for its American audience. In addition, the structure on this illustration directly evokes the Tower of Babel as painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder during the Renaissance, displacing the story in time as well as place.

3. Heighway, Richard. Blue Beard and Puss in boots: illustrated by R. Heighway. London: J.M. Dent, 1895. Illus H366b

Richard Heighway presents a very straightforward example of the Orientalizing trend at the end of the 19th century. Here, the new wife looks inside the forbidden door on the title page, while her turbaned husband watches knowingly from the frontispiece.

4. La belle au bois dormant et quelques autres contes de jadis. Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. Paris : H. Piazza, 1910. Sine Illus D86bell

Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), one of the darlings of the Golden Age, was fascinated with Eastern art – a broad category encompassing multiple cultures and eras. He worked in many genres but had a particular reputation for the “exotic.” Here, a menacing, racialized Bluebeard is posed in contrast to his fairer wife, modeled on the Italian-German violinist Elsa Bignardi. Bignardi was a recurring muse for Dulac, and the two married the year after this edition was published.

5. Perrault, Charles and Thomas Bodkin. The fairy tales of Charles Perrault. Illustrated by Harry Clarke. London: George G. Harrap & Co., 1922. Sine Illus C527fai

Known for his atmospheric pen and ink drawings, Irish artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931) created multiple iterations of the titular killer in his Bluebeard. Some evoke the Orientalist perspective, while others keep the characters firmly grounded in Europe.

6. Rackham, Arthur. The Arthur Rackham fairy book : a book of old favourites with new illustrations. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Co., 1933. Illus R115af

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) is arguably the most enduring star of the Golden Age of Illustration in England, and he focuses on the new bride, rather than her husband. He also places more emphasis on architectural detail than some; more than a few illustrators painted their idea of a violent sultan and set him in a European castle.



In “animal bridegroom” stories, a young woman is made to marry a beast, treats him well, and is rewarded when her husband transforms into a wealthy, handsome human. This framework exists in folk traditions around the world, although the details vary greatly according to cultural context. The most well-known in the English-speaking world is the French variant Beauty and the Beast, first written by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve in 1740 as La Belle et la Bête. In this and many later versions the “Beast” is never given any detailed description, leaving illustrators free to interpret his monstrosity to fit their own visions. 

In fairy tales, monsters are part of the natural order. Are they scary? Certainly, but no one questions the fact of their existence. Further, the distinction between monsters and beasts can be shaky: monsters may be animalistic and beasts may have human traits. Beauty and the Beast provides an up-close portrait of the monstrous as it appears in fairy tales, and it’s a representation that doesn’t hesitate to overlap with the animal world to the point of conflation.


1. Lamb, Charles. Beauty and the beast; or, A rough outside with a gentle heart: a poetical version of an ancient tale. Illustrated by William Mulready. London: Printed for M.J. Godwin, at the Juvenile Library, 41 Skinner Street, c. 1811. Val 825 L17 O6

Irish artist William Mulready (1786-1863) depicts the Beast as a massive, taloned boar. Interestingly, this little volume was printed for the publishing house started by William Godwin and his second wife, Mary. William Godwin’s daughter from his first marriage to Mary Wollstonecraft was Mary Shelley, an author who wrote quite a lot about monstrosity herself.

2. Beauty and the beast, or, The magic rose : with many coloured engravings. London: Dean & Co., Threadneedle Street, 1800-1850. Miniature 34

Choosing a Grecian aesthetic, this miniature provides the least beast-like of the bunch. Instead, an expressive, clawed giant takes on the role, perhaps more immediately monstrous to a modern audience than the more common animalistic interpretations. 

3. Corner, Miss (Julia). Beauty and the beast: an entertainment for the young. Illustrated by Alfred Crowquill. London: Dean & Son, 1873 or 1874. Sine Illus C76bea

Typically more given to caricature than sincerity, Crowquill’s Beast is surprisingly heartfelt. He is also one of a handful of depictions that choose to make the character a whole, recognizable animal, rather than some amalgamation.

4. Richards, Laura E. Beauty and the beast. Illustrated by Gordon Browne. London : Blackie & Son, 1887. Sine Illus B766bea

Like some unfortunate Jim Henson creature a hundred years early, this Beast is oddly built, perpetually nervous, and does a lot of gesticulating with hands halfway between paws and raptor talons. Browne (1858-1932) was a prolific illustrator of novels, boy’s stories, and magazines known for historical detail. His Beast, more fantastical than animalistic in nature, is a memorable one. 

5. Craik, Dinah Maria Mulock, and Warwick. Goble. The Fairy Book; the Best Popular Stories Selected and Rendered Anew by the Author of “John Halifax, Gentleman”  London: Macmillan, 1913.

Another Beast with a boar’s head, Goble’s rendering is nevertheless more elegant –and sympathetic! - than the purely animal creature of Mulready a hundred years earlier. Certainly, as time goes on more illustrators choose to evoke a sense of his being a person, rather than the mindless animal of Villeneuve’s 1740 story. Sine Illus G63fai

6. Apy, Deborah. Beauty and the beast. Illustrated by Michael Hague. New York : Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983. Illus H158apb

A more modern illustrator, Michael Hague (1948-) is nevertheless stylistically influenced by the greats of the Golden Age in color, detail, and romanticism. His well-dressed Beast cuts a rather large, leonine figure, not unlike the iteration played on television by Ron Perlman three years later.



Snow White is a story preoccupied with the way its characters look at each other. The first queen sees the child she wants in her mind’s eye and then brings her forth just as pictured. The new queen (and stepmother) looks into a mirror that first confirms her need to be “the fairest of them all'' and then shatters it. The same mirror allows her to watch Snow White from afar, stoking her obsession even when the girl is out of her literal sight. The external observation of Snow White’s beauty also works in her favor. It contributes to the huntsman’s hesitation and the dwarves’ willingness to take her in. Later it is the entire premise on which the prince becomes enamored and rescues Snow White from eternal sleep. The gaze of others, often mediated through glass (mirrors, windows, coffins), determines the trajectory of the narrative and Snow White’s fate.  

It's no surprise then that illustrated editions of Snow White tend to reproduce the same scenes over and over again. The examples in Dartmouth Library generate a standard set of images. The queen stares into her mirror. The dwarves gaze adoringly on Snow White. The girl herself regards the disguised queen with suspicion from her cottage window. Finally, the still-beautiful corpse of Snow White is interred in the glass coffin that allows others to continue observing her in a manner that is unimpeded by her death.


1. Lang, Leonora Blanche Alleyne and Andrew Lang. The red fairy book. Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford and Lancelot Speed. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1890. Rare Book PZ8.L15 Red 1890

In this striking illustration by Lancelot Speed (1860-1931), the evil queen looks into her reflection and the reflection looks back at the reader. Speed and fellow illustrator Henry Justice Ford were the primary artistic contributors to the immensely popular Lang fairy book series, of which this is an example.

2. Edwardes, Marian. Grimm’s household tales. Illustrated by R. Anning Bell. London : J.M. Dent & co.,; New York : E.P. Dutton & co., 1901. Sine Illus B455gri

Better known for his paintings and mosaics, artist Robert Anning Bell (1862-1933) provides a simple but evocative line drawing of the queen. Like many other illustrations of the character, she is profoundly absorbed in her own reflection and resulting jealousy. 

3. Chisholm, Louey. In fairyland: tales told again. Illustrated by Katherine Cameron. London; Edinburgh: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1904. Sine Illus C366fai

One of the “Glasgow Girls,” a group of female artists working in the Glasgow Style, Katherine Cameron (1874-1965) presents two of the customary scenes in Snow White illustrations. In one, the queen gazes at herself and in the second the dwarves gaze on the tableau of their temporarily dead companion.

4. The fairy tales of the brothers Grimm. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Constable, 1909. Sine Illus R23fair

While Rackham does render the required vignette of queen and mirror, the showpiece of his illustrated Snow White takes a different tack. The girl’s companions either examine her for signs of harm or avert their gazes in grief, creating a more involved sense of their relationship as friends rather than viewer and viewed.

5. Nielsen, Kay. Hansel and Gretel and other stories. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1925? Sine Illus N554ki 

Here, no one looks at Snow White except the reader. Combined with the enormity and emptiness of the surrounding space, Nielsen manages to convey a quiet grief despite the opportunity for voyeurism provided by the coffin.

6. The juniper tree, and other tales from Grimm. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973. Illus S467jun

Maurice Sendak’s queen looks out of the page and back at the viewer. She is both observed and observing. Behind her, the images of Snow White and one of the dwarves are enclosed in the mirror’s frame, visible to us even when the queen’s back is to them. By way of magic, she could see them, but it also seems that they should see her.

7. Snow White. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Boston: Little, Brown, 1974. Illus H997gri

The dramatic illustrations of Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004) place extra focus on the queen’s obsession with her stepdaughter. The mirror is a major set-piece in this version, with a frame of wrought faces that twist and change like a visual Greek Chorus throughout the story.