Coming to the USA on September the 26th. The Chris Riddell illustrated edition of Neverwhere. You probably want it. It’s the author’s preferred edition. It has the How The Marquis Got His Coat Back short story. Almost every page is doodled on by Chris, and there are many glorious full page illustrations as well. This is a book to take out to a fancy dinner. A book you will want to know better. A book you would want to curl up by the fireside with…
Book Review: ‘The Sleeper and the Spindle’ - Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell
I read an article once that there are fairy tales we tell today that can be traced back over 6000 years, all the way to the Bronze Age. A part of me, The romantic who fell in love with stories as a kid, can’t help but smile in glee at that. And another part of me hopes that 6000 years on, Sleeper and the Spindle is the version of Sleeping Beauty that stays around.
If you have a copy of Neil’s Trigger Warning, then you already have a copy of Sleeper and the Spindle. It is there, nestled between stories of blue boxes, old grudges and massive dogs. Alternatively, you could also buy yourself the illustrated edition of this book. It is, quite without hyperbole, the prettiest book I have ever laid eyes on. Chris Riddell has outdone himself with his art: every drawing is so subtly detailed, every character so bold, and the burnished golden highlights on the pages only serve to make the black and white drawings all the more colourful. And of course, once you’re done admiring the artwork, there is the story to mesmerise you further.
Of course, we all know the Sleeping Beauty story. This is Gaiman’s retelling of it, and what a fantastic retelling it is. In its brief 72 pages, we meet a Queen who, on her wedding day, dons her armour and sword to go investigate a strange, almost magical sleep that has taken over her neighbouring kingdom. Along the way, Gaiman introduces us to other fairy tale characters we know and love, all the while quietly subverting many classic, oftentimes somewhat sexist tropes found in fairy tales, and tells you a story that is both familiar, and yet new and exciting. There are adventures and plot twists that leave you at the edge of your seat, all before an ending that will leave you smiling wistfully for a good ten minutes before turning back to page one.
By far the most refreshing thing about this story is probably just how unapologetically feminist Neil is throughout it. Most writers would have made the swap from Prince Charming to Princess Charming and called it a day, but Neil goes above and beyond, replacing the Prince with a Queen on a mission, and - well, many other things, most of which would sadly be spoilers. Amazingly, even though it is a short story, our Queen is still given a character arc of her own, a very relatable one too, which, by the end, will leave you wanting a 10 book series chronicling her life.
I could not possibly recommend Sleeper and the Spindle enough, especially to your daughters, so that they can see that they can be both the princess and the dragonslayer, and to your sons, who could use a few stories showing how strong their female counterparts can be.
“Imp door knockers are/were a thing,
which strangely makes me like this even more. Maybe because it adds a
sense of wonder to otherwise common Victorian/Edwardian door knockers.
Next time I see one on a door I’ll be careful!”
Knockers in the shape of the Lincoln Imp were, and may still be, very popular - one of my aunts had a brass one on her door, a souvenir of a visit to the Cathedral…
…and there are numerous demon-, dragon-, bull and lion-heads with the knocker-ring clenched between their teeth or through their nose.
That said, this bull may be just a handle - the ring’s shiny from being touched (like the snouts of the bronze boar and carp outside the Huntin’-an’-Fishin’ Museum in Munich, or indeed Molly Malone’s burnished bronze bosom in Dublin) but there’s no matching bright spot on the door to show where knocking happens
- unless it’s out of view behind the ring.
These are Ancient Roman, and may also be handles not knockers…
…since a doorknocker often has a striking-plate on the door,
or a reinforced section at the bottom of the ring, and sometimes both,
while a handle has neither.
Therefore this next one is definitely a knocker, confirmed by being attached to a door and a pretty famous one at that - No 10 Downing Street, home of Larry the Cat and his predecessors in the post of
Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, as well as numerous rats, mice, shrews and an occasional mole…
However there are plenty of images of actual knockers without reinforced rings or striking-plates that just thump against the surface of the door. The only sure way to tell if it’s just a handle is if the ring can’t actually make contact…
There are numerous ways of being careful around door-knockers: for one, there’s the business of not being rude to visitors. In Thackeray’s “The Rose and the Ring”, the doorman Gruffanuff refuses to announce the arrival of Fairy Blackstick (a tetchy fairy godmother) and behaves like this instead…
…whereupon she puts him in a position where he’ll announce everyone whether he feels like it or not…
There’s the business of not getting nipped by nasty little teeth as “Instructions” warns. I photographed this one in Chur, Switzerland, and even getting your palm licked by that brass tongue would be an unsettling experience…
…while here be dragons, who might also bite, or might breathe a tiny but troubling jet of flame up your sleeve. They’re from Pownall Hall, England….
…Powis Castle, Wales…
…and Orava Castle, Slovakia.
However this doorknocker was the one that would worry me more that the others if encountered in a fairy-tale or fantasy novel…
…because it instantly reminded me of this door-handle…
…and I’ve read (and written) enough in the genre to know that this is a set-up needing treated with great caution.
Make the wrong number of raps with that knocker, or be the wrong sort of character, and the apple might coming flying like a bullet.
Alternately, if a Wicked Person grips the matching handle their own hand might be crushed to a pulp and even a Good Person might be unable to let go and run away. That - according to The Theory of Narrative Causality™ - should happen humorously just as it starts to rain, snow or be otherwise unpleasant…
Or enough-seconds-for-drama before The Resident comes to answer their door, which interval should be just long enough for Surprising to become Scary, after which the raspy breathing and ponderous footsteps approaching down the hall make it clear The Resident is someone (or some thing) the visitor would really, really rather not meet.
okay so i did not realize that along with neil gaiman and stephen fry, chris riddell (illustrator of the graveyard book, among many many others) was also going to be onstage, just quietly illustrating alongside in real time as neil and stephen talked about their norse and greek mythologies, and occasionally the men themselves, projected on-screen in tandem with the conversation. i would do terrible things to be able to get a tattoo of his sketch of fenris-wolf from neil’s children of loki story, chained in silk and twined around a mountain
Went to Chicago today to celebrate my birthday, which isn’t actually until tomorrow (Oct. 29). We hit up the Field Museum and then Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, where I found the Chris Riddell-illustrated Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman! All in all a great day.
Ho hum another day OH LOOK a present from the postie, what joy awaits?
Probably another rejection letter from a publishing companwait a minute
I know that handwriting, and that fish.
AND THAT CROSSHATCHING
OH BOY OH GEE
I MEAN NO BIG DEAL just Chris Riddell the world famous illustrator and current Children’s Laureate responding to me sending him a copy of my doofy comic with a bunch of pictures and a one-off drawing and letter on really nice paper I mean it’s completely normal for that to happen
nbd right I’m cool this is totally cool
okay but seriously, thank you chrisriddellblog I am so very honoured that you took the time to do this for me because gosh you are a busy busy man. I’m very glad if you liked the book, and thank you for all the work you do!
Stopped in at Heffers and picked up a proper copy of Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman with the Chris Riddell illustrations. I don’t understand why we can’t have the Riddell illustrated versions here in the States. I’m not against Skottie Young’s work — I just want access to both versions without having to order overseas (or travel there myself).