"The Boy Hidden in an Egg" The Little Sea Hare 1969
David Hockney RA OM CH | Etching, Aquatint Drypoint | 19.8 x 17cm *sold unframed
This is one of 39 etchings that Hockney created for the series ‘Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm’. From the unsigned edition of 400 plus 15 artist’s proofs. The etching plates were hand-drawn by David Hockney in London between May and November 1969, proofed by Maurice Payne and printed by Piet Clement on W.S.Hodgkinson paper. Published by the Petersburg Press in association with the Kasmin Gallery in 1970.
THE SEA HARE
An interpretation of the Brothers Grimm Fairytale.
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (4th January 1785 – 20th September 1863)
Wilhelm Carl Grimm (24th February 1786 – 16th December 1859)
Born in Hanau, Germany, son of Philipp Wilhelm Grimm and Dorothea Grimm.
Once upon a time there was a princess who had an apartment high under the battlements in her castle. The apartment had twelve windows which looked out in every possible direction so that she could inspect her whole kingdom.
When she looked out of the first window, her sight was more keen than that of any other human being; from the second she could see still better, from the third more distinctly still, and so it went on, until the twelfth, from which she could see everything above the earth and under the earth, and nothing at all could be kept secret from her.
The princess considered herself arrogantly superior to everyone and, as she wished to keep the dominion for herself alone, she proclaimed that no one should ever be her husband who could not conceal himself from her so effectually, that it should be quite impossible for her to find him. He who tried this, however, and was discovered by her, was to have his head struck off, and stuck on a post.
Ninety-seven posts with the heads of dead men were already standing before the castle, and no one had come forward for a long time. The princess was delighted, and thought to herself, “Now I shall be free as long as I live.”
Then three brothers appeared before her, and announced to her that they were desirous of trying their luck. The eldest believed he would be quite safe if he crept into a lime-pit, but she saw him from the first window, made him come out, and had his head cut off.
The second crept into the cellar of the palace, but she perceived him also from the first window, and his fate was sealed. His head was placed on the ninety-ninth post.
Then the youngest came to her and asked earnestly if the princess would give him a day for consideration, and also to be so gracious as to overlook it if she should happen to discover him twice. He recognised that if he failed the third time his life would be over. As he was particularly handsome, and begged so earnestly, she said, “Yes, I will grant thee that, but thou wilt not succeed.”
Next day he meditated for a long time how he should hide himself, but all in vain. He decided to seize his gun and go out hunting. He saw a raven, took a good aim at him, and was just about to fire, when the bird cried, “Don’t shoot; I will make it worth thy while.”
He needed to the raven’s plea and carried along his journey and came across a lake. Here he surprised a large fish which had come up from the depths of the lake to the surface of the water. He aimed his gun at it, but the fish cried, “Don’t shoot, and I will make it worth thy while.”
He allowed the fish to dive down into the depths of the lake, went onwards, and met a fox which was lame. He fired his gun and missed it. The fox cried, “It would be far better if you came here and drew the thorn out of my foot for me.” He did this; but then he wanted to kill the fox and skin it. The fox said, “Stop, and I will make it worth thy while.” The youth let him go, and then as it was evening, returned home.
Next day he was to hide himself from the princess; but however he puzzled over it, he did not know how or where. He went into the forest and found the raven he had spared and said, “I let thee live on, so now tell me where I am to hide myself, so that the King’s daughter shall not see me.”
The raven hung his head and thought it over for a long time. At length he croaked, “I have it.” He fetched an egg out of his nest, cut it into two parts, and shut the youth inside it. He then made the egg whole again, and seated himself upon it.
When the King’s daughter went to the first window she could not discover the youth. As she went from window to window she began to feel uneasy, but from the eleventh window she saw him. She ordered the raven to be shot and the egg to be brought and broken open. The youth was forced to come out and she said, “For once thou art excused, but if thou dost not do better than this, thou art lost!”
Next day he went to the lake, called the fish to him and said, “I suffered thee to live, now tell me where to hide myself so that the King’s daughter may not see me.” The fish thought for a while, and at last cried, “I have it! I will shut thee up in my stomach.”The fish swallowed him, and went down to the bottom of the lake.
The King’s daughter looked through her windows, and even from the eleventh did not see him. She was alarmed, but at great length from the twelfth window she eventually saw him. She ordered for the fish to be caught and killed, and summoned for the youth to appear before her. He was in an unimaginable state of mind when she declared, “Twice thou art forgiven, but be sure that thy head will be set on the hundredth post.”
On the last day, he went with a heavy heart into the country, and met the fox. “Thou knowest how to find all kinds of hiding-places,” said he; “I let thee live, now advise me where I shall hide myself so that the King’s daughter shall not discover me.”
“That’s a hard task,” answered the fox, looking very thoughtful.
After some length the fox cried, “I have it!” and they went to a magical spring, where the fox dipped himself into it and became a market stall-keeper who dealt in animals. The youth had to dip himself into the water too and was changed into a small sea hare (Aplysiomorpha – Sea Slug)
The merchant then went into the town and showed the pretty little sea hare which caused many people to gather around his stall to see it. At length the King’s daughter came likewise, and as she liked it very much, she bought it, and gave the merchant a good deal of money for it. Before giving the princess the little sea hare he whispered to it, “When the King’s daughter goes to the window, creep quickly under the braids of her hair.”
When the time arrived for the princess to search for the youth she went from one window to the next in order to seek him out. From the first to the eleventh window she could not see him. When she did not see him from the twelfth either, she was full of anxiety and anger, and shut the window down so violently that the glass in every window shivered into a thousand pieces, and the whole castle shook. She went back and felt the sea hare beneath the braids of her hair. Then she seized it, and threw it on the ground exclaiming, “Away with thee, get out of my sight!”
The sea hare found the merchant, and both of them hurried to the spring, whereupon they plunged into the water and received back their true forms. The youth thanked the fox, and said, “The raven and the fish are idiots compared with thee; thou knowest the right tune to play, there is no denying that!”
The youth then went straight to the palace. The princess was already expecting him, and accommodated herself to her destiny. The wedding was solemnized, and now he was king, and lord of all the kingdom. He never told her where he had concealed himself for the third time, and who had helped him, so she believed that he had done everything by his own skill, and she had a great respect for him, for she thought to herself, “He is able to do more than I.”
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