Red Hood. Blue Beard – Colour in Fairy Tales

© 2019 arnoldsche Art Publishers, Stuttgart, editors/authors, translator. ISBN: 978-3-89790-573-3 Red Hood Blue Beard Colour in Fairytale


Symbol, Contrast, Emotion. On the Challenge of Interpreting Colours

Peter Stohler

Colours in fairy tales are sparingly used. And yet – or precisely because of this – they catch the eye straight away. In the world of fairy tales, white snow is contrasted with red drops of blood, faces are blackened, figures are green and yellow with rage, a beard shimmers in an eerie blue, hair gleams in luminescent gold. Doubtlessly, colours play an extremely important role in fairy tales: they convey emotions and are laden with graphic significance. However, try to perform definitive attributions or undertake conclusive interpretations and you will encounter sometimes overwhelming abundance and ambivalence in the realm of fairy-tale colours. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why research has previously kept its distance from this fascinating subject. It is certainly not easy to grasp.

As the first publication on this richly faceted subject, Red Hood, Blue Beard performs valuable groundwork and is released to accompany the exhibition of the same name at GRIMM WORLD Kassel. It combines the colour theories developed from 1800 and most particularly popular during the lifetime of the Brothers Grimm (Jacob, 1785–1863; Wilhelm, 1786–1859) with the world of colours in fairy tales. Sabine Schimma, the essays’ author, takes you with her on an encyclopaedic lively journey from black and white, via red, green and blue, through to gold and silver. These are the colours of the Grimms’ fairy tales, but also – so pan-European is the horizon – the stories of one Charles Perrault or Hans Christian Andersen. The publication contains a host of colour illustrations from historical fairy tale books, which we are keen to show you. It is our great pleasure to do this, because they are so evocative, even if fairy tale narrators do occasionally express a wish to dispense with illustrations altogether in order to allow the imagination freer rein.

Alongside the main text we have set three interviews, each of which approaches the subject from a personal point of view: Caroline Capiaghi interprets fairy-tale colours from her trove of many years’ experience as a storyteller. Applying his unconventional, artistically explorative approach, Flims-based artist Remo Albert Alig highlights the alchemistic background in the fairy tale Little Snow-White. In her role as researcher, publicist and chair of the European Society for Fairy Tales, Sabine Lutkat performs a highly nuanced examination of the interpretative cosmos of colours, which, given its complexity, she rightly does not wish to see subjected to simplistic definitions.

You will experience colours that you can observe in skin and hair, plants, textiles, animals, in water and vital fluids and in feathers of all kinds – or which you will also quite often need to picture for yourself. Enjoy these colours when they look superficially pleasant, and be aware that, from time to time, colours have the capability to convey shockingly horrific things as well. We invite you onto an insightful and enjoyable journey through the world of fairy-tale colours.

Contents (click on the photo to enlarge)

Please click on the poppy to read some of the Introduction: