Page 12 - Seeing Eye flag

Page 12 – to whisper among themselves

by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas

The character prominently introduced on this page in immediately recognized by all as the villain of our story, the wicked Fairy Misery. The image is immediately familiar, yet somehow different. Who could the portrait of this devilish Fairy Misery have been inspired by?

Disney released it’s first full length, feature animation film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, about three years prior to Letitia commencing work on Princess April Morning-Glory. Letitia undoubtedly saw this film and was inspired perhaps in part by the Evil Queen of that children’s classic. But in Letitia’s portrait of her wicked fairy queen, she takes detailed portraiture of malevolence to a whole new level, rendering Disney’s Evil Queen of just 3 years earlier seem like mere child’s play, next to the mature, sexy, brazen, and patently evil, Fairy Misery.

A side-by-side comparison between Letitia Fairbanks' 1941 "Fairy Misery" and Disney's Wicked Queen from their 1937 animated classic, "Snow White and the Seven Drawfs"

A side-by-side comparison between Letitia Fairbanks’ 1941 “Fairy Misery” and Disney’s Wicked Queen from their 1937 animated classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

While Disney offers little detail in their depiction of the Evil Queen in Snow White – simply relying on the black tone of the background to convey the evil contained within, Letitia uses detailed illustration to visually convey the intent of her wicked fairy queen. In direct contrast to Disney’s monochrome approach to the backdrop of their portrayal of an evil personage, Letitia’s background is occupied by shades of light gray. And the words chosen for illumination and their illuminated visage show the classic treatment of evil in the 1930s and 1940s: Paint it black. There is a black star, a black bat, a Jet (black) Castle, and of course the wicked one’s costume is black, with red – for blood – accents.

As is typical of the day when portraying the “evil do-er,” the portrait's background is rife with negative imagery – withered trees, dead grass, snake, spider, gloomy castle, and what appears to be fungal material – all rendered in black or dark gray. ~ Danny Garrett

As is typical of the day when portraying the “evil do-er,” the portrait’s background is rife with negative imagery – withered trees, dead grass, snake, spider, gloomy castle, and what appears to be fungal material – all rendered in black or dark gray. ~ Danny Garrett

This portrait is the first hint that Letitia may be speaking to adults. Note the overall demeanor of Fairy Misery: the full breasts, the open declaration of sex as part of the evils that lie within, and the negativity of age – expressed in the neck wrinkles and mouth corner creases. The perfect manicure in a blood red, to complement the elbow wings and crown, complete the picture of a femme fatale, past her prime and resentful of that, and much more.

Unlike the sweet and gentle “tiny woodland creatures” that are Princess April’s companions, Fairy Misery is accompanied by the biblical companion to Disney’s apple-giving, evil fairy queen – a sibilant snake, a couple of spiders — one on the end of Misery’s scepter, slithering gray grass, ‘Seeing Eye’ flags, plus withering trees and lifeless limbs – all the very detailed, adult images of death and decay, communicated and encapsulated in a motif-rich painting.

Page 12 - Snake, grass, and elbow wings

Page 12 – Snake, grass, and red elbow wings

Page 12 - Seeing Eye flag

Page 12 – Seeing Eye flag

Page 12 - Spider in web

Page 12 – Spider in web

As for who might have been an “inspiration” for this Fairy Misery, who was a better femme fatale than Carole Lombard? Although in all fairness and with much respect to Carole, she completely lacked the advanced years of which Fairy Misery is in firm possession. Ah, it’s fun to just dream of who might have been Letitia’s inspirations, especially for those characters for which we have no information accurately describe Letitia’s thoughts are the time of Princess April Morning-Glory’s creation.

Viewing "Fairy Misery" as a classic 'femme fatale,' as personified by Carole Lombard in this undated photo

Viewing “Fairy Misery” as a classic ‘femme fatale,’ as personified by Carole Lombard in this undated photo

Until next week, dear readers.

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