Friday, May 24, 2013

Princess Furball

1989, 1990 Scholastic edition
Princess Furball
Adapted by Charlotte Huck, illustrated by Anita Lobel
Original price $3.95, purchase price 49 cents
Worn paperback

Our first picture book since the Peter Rabbit pop-up is an odd one, both because of the source material and the ways that Huck and Lobel interpret it.  The original folktale has a widowed king who wants to marry his own daughter, while Huck has him offer her to a rich ogre, but in the illustration, the ogre's portrait looks like a wartier, more wrinkled version of the king.  (And the nameless princess looks like her late mother.)  So the incest has become subtext.  Similarly, the princess asks her father for three beautiful dresses and a coat of a thousand furs, so for the latter we see animals being hunted, and then later the young good-looking king of another country goes hunting, and his men capture Princess Furball.  It's never clear if they see her as a talking animal or as a girl in a fur coat. 

The princess's "clever" scheme to capture the young king's interest is also odd, because she puts small golden objects in his soup (clearly a choking hazard), but doesn't use this opportunity to speak with him.  Then finally he "catches Furball by the hand, and while she struggles to get free the fur coat falls open and he sees the star dress."  And they live happily ever after, with three children in the last panel, including a girl who looks like her.

So the themes of capture and incest run all through the book, in both text and illustrations.  Read it for a variation on the "Cinderella" theme, but don't expect a brilliant interpretation.

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