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Thumbelina, A Danish Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson

Updated on March 31, 2020
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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.

T is for Thumbelina, A Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson
T is for Thumbelina, A Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson | Source

My Children’s Alphabet Book

If you have followed my Fairy Tale Alphabet book series, you know I created a children’s book using fairy tales for each letter of the alphabet. I tried to keep them global, and not concentrate on only the classic Grimm’s fairy tales. This one is a tale written by Hans Christian Anderson of Denmark. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

As you can see from the photo references, I originally thought of the little girl as a baby in the flower, or maybe dancing on a lily pad or with a beetle. But in the end I decided I wanted her with wings flying.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

— Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Photo references
Photo references | Source

Thumbelina, A Danish Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Anderson

There once was a peasant and his wife who had no children but wanted one very much. One day a hungry old beggar woman gave the peasant’s wife a barleycorn in exchange for a bowl of soup. She told the good wife to plant it and she would have her heart’s desire. She planted it and it bloomed. Then a tiny girl, Thumbelina, emerged from its flower, no bigger than your thumb. The peasant and his wife were overjoyed. One night, Thumbelina was carried off by a toad while she slept in her walnut-shell bed. The toad wanted her as a bride for her son. Thumbelina escaped the toad and her son with the help of a friendly butterfly. The butterfly left her drifting on a lily pad until a stag beetle captured her. He would have kept her but his friends didn’t like her company, and so he left her alone.

Cold and wet from the rain, Thumbelina tried to protect herself under flowers and leaves, but when winter came, she was worried. Finally, an old field mouse gave her shelter and in return, Thumbelina kept her mouse house clean. The mouse suggested that Thumbelina marry her neighbor, a mole, but Thumbelina didn’t like that idea because he spent all his days underground and never saw sunlight. The field mouse kept pushing and urging Thumbelina to marry, saying the mole was a good match for her, and would not listen to Thumbelina’s many protests.

Finally, Thumbelina escaped the situation by fleeing to a far land with the help of the swallow that she nursed back to health during the winter. Then in a sunny field of flowers, Thumbelina met a tiny flower-fairy prince just her size, and they fell in love. She decided to marry the fairy prince and received a pair of wings so that she could go with her husband on his many travels from flower to flower.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Thumbnail sketch 1Thumbnail sketch 2
Thumbnail sketch 1
Thumbnail sketch 1 | Source
Thumbnail sketch 2
Thumbnail sketch 2 | Source

Collage Illustrations

I used a photo of my little niece for the reference for Thumbelina. I did make a video for this collage so you can see my progress on the collage. I do hope you enjoy the progress of this collage.

I was going with the second thumbnail sketch first. The little girl who posed for me was 10 but the drawing made her look older than I wanted so I switched before starting the collage.

Value sketch
Value sketch | Source

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”

— Albert Einstein

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 Thumbelina.

My book, The FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World, was self-published last year with because Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing) refused to allow illustrations that spanned the central gutter of the page. They demanded at least a half-inch margin around the outside, which I could have done, and a half-inch margin through the center margin, which would destroy the look and cohesiveness of the double-page illustrations. I had to find a different publisher who would allow the illustrations the way I wanted them. KDP obviously does not understand illustrated children’s picture books. If you are interested in purchasing the book, go to the Lulu website and put my name or the name of the book in the search.

Color composition
Color composition | Source

Did You Notice

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.

I believe that many children recognize Harry Potter for what it is, fantasy literature. I'm sure there will always be some that take it too far, but that's the case with everything. I believe it's much better to engage in dialog with children to explain the difference between fantasy and reality. Then they are better equipped to deal with people who might have taken it too far.”

— J.K. Rowling
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Final Collage illustrationPhoto reference of Skye and Madison.
Final Collage illustration
Final Collage illustration | Source
Photo reference of Skye and Madison.
Photo reference of Skye and Madison. | Source

Final Thoughts

I hope you like my story and my fairy tale alphabet book idea. If you are interested you can purchase it on Lulu but not on Amazon. I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.


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