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In Farmers' Times

Posted by Michelle Porter on

The illustrations in Jack and the Green Man offer a rare glimpse of a visual style that was part of southeastern Europe before the Former Yugoslavia fell apart, before the war and the fall of communism changed the area forever.

That European link is part of the history of Newfoundland fairy tales, says writer and performer Andy Jones. He’s the author of Jack and the Green Man, the first chapter book in his Jack tales series.

The paintings take readers across the ocean, far away from Newfoundland.

“I love it,” says Andy Jones. “Because the stories don’t take place in Newfoundland. Not in the mind of the old storytellers.”

So many of the old Newfoundland stories begin with the phrase: “Once upon a time, in farmers’ times.”

“Now, where were the farms in Newfoundland?” asked Andy. There weren’t many, he says.

“Because a lot of people who came to Newfoundland came not from fishing villages in England and Ireland. They came from the country, where they were farmers. They went to the seashore, got a job on a boat, and came to Newfoundland. They stayed and brought the stories with them,” Andy says.

That’s why farmers are such popular characters in old Newfoundland tales and outnumber the fishermen, explains Andy.

From the beginning, Andy embraced the idea of blending a southeastern European visual style with his retellings of old Newfoundland stories.

Slovenian artist Darka Erdelji’s illustrations take our Newfoundland Jack to a part of the world and to a time in eastern Europe when children’s literature was flourishing, to a moment that was a pause before war. In today’s southeastern Europe children’s literature continues to claim a distinct visual language. Darka’s illustrations in Jack and the Green Man are part of this.

“I love the fact that it’s a new world, where Darka is drawing from,” says Andy. “It’s Darka world.”