A gorgeously illustrated handmade production from the Golden Age of children's illustration, by an unknown or pseudonymous artist-author credited only as "Roland."
A cautionary tale of the dangers of fire, FEUERFUNKCHEN partakes strongly of the German folktale tradition, somewhere midway between the Brothers Grimm and Heinrich Hoffmann. In measured couplets enhanced by singular watercolors, the book's lesson strongly recall the Very Sad Story of the Matches from Hoffmann's DER STRUWWELPETER, but what Roland lacks in Hoffmannian sadism and drollery, he more than makes up for in grandeur.
The deftly designed and boldly colored illustrations evoke primal terror with a real hint of the sublime. The storyline echoes its famous predecessor in beginning and ending with a warning to beware and be careful, but the lingering message is less one of obedience to authority than of fearful respect for the element of fire. Where Hoffmann's naughty little girl burns herself to a pile of ashes, Roland's child is still alive at the end, gazing horrified at the fire-demon, grinning with delight against a darkened sky, now large enough to swallow his father's cottage whole. The lasting mood is ambiguous: not one of punishment, but of awe.
[Germany]: n.p, . 12.25'' x 9.25''. Charcoal grey paper-covered boards, illustrated with vivid orange fire-demon; grey endpapers stenciled with orange flame-silhouettes. Includes twelve pages of text (in German), each with a full-page watercolor and pen illustration opposite: pp. in total. Signed and dated in pencil on blank verso of final leaf: "November 21 / Roland." Chipped at spine ends to reveal a hint of blue cloth. Joint cracked at head with small tape at foot. Edges and corners bumped and scuffed. Some minor foxing and soil to a few pages. Else bright and sound.
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