All Things Froud and Wonderful
A Special Edition Devoted to the Work
of Brian, Wendy (and Toby!) Froud

 

Elf-light, bat-light,
Touchwood-light and toad-light,
And the sea a shimmering gloom of grey,
And a small face smiling
In a dream's beguiling
In a world of wonders far away.

-- from Dream Song, Walter de la Mare

Mia Nutick here, Editor At Large, bringing you this special edition of Green Man Review dedicated to the work of Brian and Wendy Froud. We even have a little bit of Toby! (Nothing he'll miss later, I trust.)

I've only recently returned to the Green Man offices, having just reappeared after a lengthy cruise on a lovely ship somewhere to Neverland and points further West, and I'm extremely pleased to help bring you this assortment of Froudian delights.

Brian Froud graduated from the Maidstone College of Art in 1971 and became an illustrator. In 1978 he collaborated with Alan Lee on the book which would begin a revival of interest in the unseen world of the fey: a book entitled simply, Faeries. Immediately afterwards he began working for Jim Henson on the creation of the magical world of the 1982 release The Dark Crystal. If he wasn't entrenched enough in our imaginations by then, in 1986 he again worked with Henson on the now cult-status film Labyrinth. Since then, he has worked with other amazing talents such as Ari Berk and Terry Jones to bring us a steady supply of sprites, pixies, faeries, goblins and other creatures from the lands beyond the lands we know. He has become the Arthur Rackham of our time.

Wendy Froud was Wendy Midener when she began working for Jim Henson creating Muppets. She graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and the Center for Creative Studies College of Art and Design in Detroit, continued as the dollmaker that she had been since the age of five, and went on to create the sculptures for Jen and Kira in The Dark Crystal and Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back. She met Brian Froud while working on The Dark Crystal and they embarked on marriage and other brilliant collaborations -- not the least of which was the (ongoing) 'production' of Toby Froud. She has enjoyed a long and stellar career bringing myriad fantastical beings to light and life through her marvelous sculptures.

Toby Froud has long been best known as 'the baby from Labyrinth', but I've had the great pleasure of meeting him as an adult, and I wanted to make sure that we brought you a little bit of information about what he's up to now that he's all grown up. You'll learn more when you read my interview with him, but there's no doubt that the silver apple did not fall far from the golden tree -- Toby, child of artists, is an artist and a performer in his own right and is fully prepared to continue in the Froud tradition of magic-making. In addition to my interview, you can get a taste of the direction his career is headed in this article by William Todd-Jones on the World of Froud website.

In his Foreword to Brian Froud's World of Faerie, Ari Berk says 'Sometimes Faerie is not a country but a shifting of light upon the land, a wistful song, a moment in between other moments. Some people have a greater facility for feeling its presence than others. Children see it easily and often. So do the mad. Shamans and visionaries can travel there and back again. So can the artist who humbly gives his life over to the mystery.'

By all reports, the Frouds live in a Wonderland, a house populated with faeries both seen and unseen, beings both created and invited by Brian and Wendy through their art. The Frouds have that facility for feeling the presence of Faerie; they are indeed visionaries. And wonderfully, magically, they share their visions of Faerie with the rest of us.

We hope you enjoy this collection of reviews and interviews showcasing the many ways that the Frouds have helped to guide us into the mystical land of Faerie.

This edition we are featuring some very special interviews.

First, we are indebted to Terri Windling for transcribing a Very Exciting Interview for us. The hero of several books by Terri Windling and Wendy Froud, which you'll find reviewed below, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh (Sneezle for short) speaks with Professor Arnel Rootmuster in an excerpt from The Old Oak Chronicles: Interviews with Famous Personages.

Next, I interviewed Brian, Wendy, and Toby Froud. I was very pleased to be able to speak with them at length, and found out some fascinating things about each of the Frouds and their perspectives on their art and on the nature of Faerie. (I'd also like to extend my deepest thanks to Deborah J. Brannon for helping me transcribe these interviews!)

I spoke with Wendy first, and we discussed many aspects of her work and her influences. She says '...I just never felt at home with the Disneyfied images of Faerie at all. They didn't do anything for me. I always sort of made up my own ideas of what things should be. Strong little girls and strong women have always been a part of what I feel is important to portray.' You can read more of our wonderful conversation here.

Then Wendy graciously handed the phone off to Toby, for a delightful chat about what the 'Labyrinth baby' is doing now. I suspect we're going to see many great things from him in the near future.

Several days later I spoke with Brian Froud, 'ambassador of Faerie'. I'm looking at his work in new ways after our conversation, and I think you will as well. 'Giving the faeries their power back is what I'm attempting to do...' he says, and I think we can agree that he's doing it masterfully. Read more about his vision and art here.

April here, dropping in to bring you the book reviews, past and present, that we've collected on the Froud's fabulous body of work.

Andrea Garrett kicks things off with a look at Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth's book and card combo, The Faeries' Oracle. She says that regardless of any predictive power the cards might have, the book is 'lovely and well put together,' and Macbeth an 'entertaining writer,' while the cards 'are lovely and easy to handle.'

Michael Jones examines the second collaboration between Monty Python's Terry Jones and Brian Froud, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Journal. Michael found this journal to be 'lovely little book' that 'gives us a year's worth of fairy fun, frolics, festivals, holidays, celebrations, parties, and history.' It can even be used as a real journal!

Michael also tackles three Froud books in one review: Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells and Good Fairies, Bad Faeries. He found that Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book, another collaboration with Terry Jones, 'possesses a wicked sense of humor, and never takes itself too seriously, with the 'true attraction' being 'the wonderfully gruesome images Froud presents, of fairies sprawled at awkward angles, smooshed and squished with a particularly surprised look on their faces.' Heh! Strange Stains and Mysterious Smells is another work with Jones, of which he says, 'To say that Jones and Froud are having fun here would be an understatement' and 'the art defies description.' Lastly, Michael turns his attention to Froud's collaboration with Terri Windling, a follow up to Faeries, another 'gorgeous book' that 'is nothing short of superb in every regard, from the handsome design to the spectacular artwork inside.'

Jack B. Merry reviews the middle book of Wendy Froud and Terri Windling's trilogy about Sneezle the faery (see below for A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale and The Faeries of Spring Cottage), The Winter Child. Jack says 'there is much here to entertain both children and adults' as it 'gives us a glimpse of a world quite, quite different from our own.' He also says 'it's perfect for reading on a cold, windy winter's night.'

Mia Nutick digs deep into the Froud oeuvre with relish, taking a look at several of the pair's publications, starting with Brian Froud's collaboration with Ari Berk, Goblins, which she says 'is a brilliant representation of Berk and Froud's contact with the goblin world.' As to be expected, the artistic 'work is exquisite' and the text is 'utterly delightful.'

Mia also enjoys the third installment in the Lady Cottington series, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters, which she proclaims is 'delightful read, full of little scraps of enticing artwork and beautifully 'preserved' fairies.' 'Highly recommended for fairy lovers and historical scholars alike,' she says.

Next, Mia explores Brian Froud's World of Faerie, which she describes as 'a true reflection of the land of Faerie, insofar as anything can be; just as winding, secretive, shifting and beautiful, just as mysterious and fascinating.'

The last book Mia presents to us is Wendy Froud's The Art of Wendy Froud. Mia says that this volume is an 'art book, a collection of examples of her amazing faerie and mythic sculptures and her musings on the nature of her work' and a 'must have for anyone who has enjoyed her books or her work in films.'

Robert Tilendis delves into The Secret Sketchbooks of Brian Froud, which is a pictoral journey through Froud's career. Robert characterizes Froud's work as having a 'sense of depth and reality,' perhaps due to 'the uncompromisingly detail realism of his renderings.' However, he finds the book itself lacking, as there are 'no real descriptions, no timeline, no commentary on the development of the images or of Froud's work in general.'

Grey Walker examines another Froud-Berk collaboration, The Runes of Elfland, which she posits could be considered interstitial, as it manages to be a picture book, collection of fairy tales and rune dictionary, all at once. She urges that you interact with the book, 'read the stories and the lore, look closely at the pictures and marginalia, and let your imagination take you even further than the pages go,' then 'say the charms out loud. Write your name in runes. The authors want you to. They urge you to.'

Grey also visits the first book in Wendy Froud and Terri Windling's series about tree faery Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, aka Sneezle, A Midsummer Night's Faery Tale. She says that 'Terri Windling uses rich yet simple language to write a story that a small child can follow, yet whose lavish description and dreamlike symbolism will intrigue adults as well. But the true magic of this story is in the pictures.' She concludes that 'this is not just a book. It is an experience.'

Matthew Winslow reviewed the third of Wendy Froud and Terri Windling's books on Sneezle the tree faery, The Faeries of Spring Cottage. This time around, Sneezle comes into contact with humans in the form of a young girl. Matthew says that this volume, like the others, is 'lavishly illustrated,' and that Froud 'has created a whole world that is believably contained within itself.' Not to mention that 'Terri Windling's text is masterfully wedded to the pictures' for an effect that will, in Matthew's words 'knock ones socks off.'

Back to you, Mia!

Some know the name Froud best from films! Michael Jones reviews the two made with Jim Henson: 'Some of the greatest fantasy movies in recent memory have come from the incomparable, unbeatable, and sadly never to be repeated collaborations of Jim Henson and Brian Froud. Take the magical madness of Henson's muppets and the bizarre mythic imagery of Froud's faeries, throw in some special effects and superb actors, and you get two of the best-loved fantasy movies of the 1980s, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.'

In 2003 a great cosmic alignment brought about a new event in Sedona, Arizona. Part convention and part festival, Faerieworlds is a celebration of Faerie in all its varied forms. In 2004 this event moved to my stomping grounds here in Oregon, and I attended with Rebecca Scott. Even in the rough early days it was a magical experience, and each year it has grown more organized, more exciting, and more enchanting. My family truly looks forward to Faerieworlds the way many people look forward to Christmas. Last year the Froud's added an East Coast version in Philadelphia, more 'cerebral' as Brian mentions in our interview: FaerieCon.

Rebecca reviewed that first Oregon Faerieworlds: 'What the heck's a Faerieworlds Festival, I asked myself...'

Many musicians are inspired by the work of the Frouds, and what might be called 'fey' music is growing in popularity. In 2002 a Froud 'soundtrack' was released, containing music by various artists which might be said to complement the imagery of Brian Froud. Grey Walker found this CD 'quite satisfying' in her review of Faeries: A Musical Companion to the Art of Brian Froud

 

That's it for this special Froud edition of Green Man Review. We hope you've enjoyed the journey through Faerie as seen through the eyes of Brian, Wendy (and Toby!) Froud. We'd like to thank the Frouds for the art and magic they've brought us over the years. We look forward to the new and constantly evolving wonders they will bring us in years to come.

We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.

We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear

Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.

We pulled together a look at the Bordertown series that Terri Windling created -- go here for that article.

Lastly, we have put together a Recommended Series Reading List covering many genres from fantasy to mystery and (of course) sf for your reading pleasure. You can find that list thisaway.

For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here. Still have questions? Email our Editor here and provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring some spiced cider while listening to Ragged Raven tell her tale, he'll try to answer your question!

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