Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Portrait of a Lady-in-Waiting...


There's a lot of history behind this picture. I thought I'd take time out to write a short, sweet little vignette explaining how Mirrum came into being (even subconsciously at age seven).
Our public library back in 1996 was er... interesting. Limited, one might say, in books - which is an odd thing for a library -eg, a place of worship for readers everywhere. Not having books there is rather like a place of worship without a God - lonely, faintly out of place - and in this case, desperately dull. Harry Potter isn't even invented yet. A small seven year old girl is flicking through the 'children's books.' Unfortunately she's grown out of Spot's First Day At School - and she never liked Dr Seuss. However, she's discovered King Arthur in a book of children's stories (although all the meaning behind the er... romances have passed her by. Innocence is a wonderful thing.) And what does she stumble upon?
An almost word for word children's illustrated translation of the Lays of Marie de France. Now, this is like finding gold dust in a heap of sand. Most of the older children's books are strictly educational back in 1996 - or else given worthy titles like Why Do People Have to Die, Mummy?
And there's this picture on the front of the book. It's from Lanval.
Now, on reading the story, the fair damsel is absolutely nothing like Mirrum. For one thing, she's the sort of fairy lady who casually hangs about half-dressed in a silk tent offering affection, associated er - activities to do with love, and 'never-ending wealth' to the first knight that comes along - on condition he never boasts about her. She's your generic 'wish-fulfilment' for the medieval man. It was an odd book for a little girl. But kudos to the artistic genius of Angela Barrett that she doesn't make the fairy damozel look like the mythical floozy she was in the story. She has a certain intelligent.... look, about her. Not exactly beautiful, but - arresting. I hunted fruitlessly for this book for years until I finally tracked it down second-hand on Amazon. She just is Mirrum, down to a T. I don't think I even realised I'd had the illustration in my mind when writing until I opened the package and there it was.
Wow... I suppose it illustrates the point (or substantiates the argument for, as my tutors are always saying) that the subconscious holds more things than we actually realise...

1 comment:

Mercury Gray said...

Beautiful illustration. Angela Barrett is a credit to her profession.