metaphrog, writer John Chalmers and artist Sandra Marrs, have adapted Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes and The Little Match Girl, and added a further tale of their own The Glass Case. ‘Exclusive Advance Editions’ were available at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, where metaphrog were Writers In Residence, and at last weekend’s New York Comic Con, while the book will receive its formal UK launch at this coming weekend’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival where its creators are giving a talk as well as free comics workshops.
In their adaptation of Han’s Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes the orphaned and poor Karen, who loves to dance, is taken in by her kindly aunt who buys her a new pair of red shoes to replace the single old pair of homemade ones she owned. Walking home from the shoe shop besotted with her new shoes, Karen is stopped by a shoeshiner who bewitches the shoes so that when she wears them they force her to dance. When she is almost run over by a car her aunt takes the shoes and locks them away for Karen’s own safety.
However the shoes dwell on Karen’s mind and when her aunt is on her deathbed, Karen takes the shoes back, puts them on and is literally carried away by them. Unable to stop dancing, the shoes eventually carry Karen to a church where her aunt’s funeral is taking place and she realises what she has missed. Later, when they take her to the house of an executioner, she begs him to remove the shoes with his axe.
While the next part of the story could have become graphic, that is not metaphrog’s style and while the thought (like many fairy tales) is gruesome the execution (for want of a better word) is not. The ending shows the bittersweet nature of the tale as Karen has to live with the consequences of her decisions.
John’s script weaves the best known adaptation of the original story, Powell and Pressberger’s 1948 film, into the tale as Karen sees a ballerina wearing red shoes going into a theatre to perform, a theatre that is advertising the ballet with the US poster for the film. Sandra’s artwork is soft yet clear throughout while her choice of a subtle colour palette that is mainly reds and blues does much to enhance the mood of the story.
The Other Tales are both reprints from metaphrog’s Christmas 2013 limited edition comic Winter’s Tales, with their own original story, The Glass Case, telling of a boy who finds solace with a doll in a museum and The Little Match Girl which retells another Hans Christian Anderson tale. The achingly sad Little Match Girl has been revisited since that original 2013 publication with a rewrite of the text and a “reimagining” of the final art page. I can understand why an American publisher of children’s titles like Papercutz would want the original version’s downbeat ending replaced with a more uplifting one, and I have to hand it to metaphrog for figuring out how to do that whilst keeping the plot point exactly the same.
Most of metaphrog’s previous titles have been self published so they have had control over the way those titles were produced leading to high quality printing often behind hardcovers, and this title doesn’t disappoint on that front. Papercutz have done them proud with a classy hardback printing with a red cloth spine and gold lettering, while the visual effect of textured paper flows through the entire book and not just the story pages.
The Red Shoes And Other Tales is a beautiful book by metaphrog telling three bittersweet stories that really are suitable for all ages.
- There are more details of all Metaphrog’s work on their website
- You can buy The Red Shoes and Other Tales from amazon.co.uk here
- Metaphrog have been interviewed on downthetubes about their work here and here. Their limited edition Winter’s Tales comic was reviewed on downthetubes here
- There are more details of The Red Shoes And Other Tales on the Papercutz website
Metaphrog will be launching The Red Shoes And Other Tales at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival this coming weekend in Kendal where they will be taking part in both the Family Zone events and the Main Festival events as well as signing copies. They will also be selling limited edition cards based on The Red Shoes artwork.
Main Festival – Shiny New Red Shoes: Metaphrog
Saturday 17 October
Comics Clock Tower