with original linocut illustrations by Elly Cohen
… and Peg lay down on the floor, but she couldn’t sleep. She twisted and turned all night, just couldn’t get to sleep. There was something bad about that place, she could feel it right down into her bones. So she got up and she walked around the old woman’s house. Now, she soon knew that the old woman was a witch, for in her kitchen she found a decanter that could never be emptied. She poured wine into it, turned it upside down, the wine flowed and flowed and flowed. Water same thing, milk same thing. Flowed and flowed. Never stopped. Then out in the barn, she found a lantern that could shine a half mile light. You didn’t have to fill it. You didn’t have to light it. All you had to do was touch it, and it shone for a half a mile. And touch it Peg did, and it shone for half a mile…..
– from Peg Bearskin
I first heard the story of Peg Bearskin from singer and storyteller Anita Best in 1999, when she visited one of my classes in London, Ontario. Anita’s version, which she learned from her father-in-law Mr. Pius Power, Sr., of Southeast Bight, Placentia Bay, is slightly different from this one, but it is still enlivened by the wonderful, shaggy, irrepressible presence of its heroine.
Peg lodged in my heart immediately, and is still firmly at home there, showing no sign of moving house anytime soon. But it was after hearing actor and storyteller Mercedes Barry tell this version of “Peg” at a fundraiser for the Tramore Theatre Troupe of Cuslett, Placentia Bay, that I knew I had to find a way to work with the story.
Peg’s big, ugly and hairy, but she has the wit, tenacity and courage to outfox a witch and find husbands for her two beautiful sisters and one for herself as well. A typical folktale? Well, perhaps. But Peg is no typical heroine, and the ending of her story isn’t typical either. So, we’ve tried to make a book that’s worthy of her: big, ugly and hairy – but as beautiful inside as is Peg herself.
This story is taken from a version told by Mrs. Elizabeth Brewer of Freshwater, Placentia Bay. It was adapted by Philip Dinn and Andy Jones for “Jack-Five-Oh,” a storytelling play that marked the 50th anniversary of Newfoundland’s entry into confederation with Canada. Mercedes Barry, who told the story in some versions of the play, also had input in this adapation.
Elly Cohen’s linocut illustrations were commissioned for the project.
The type is 16 pt Polyphilus and Blado, set by Michael and Winifred Bixler of Skaneateles, NY. Printed in two colours on Rives BFK with burgundy Bugra endpapers, in an edition of 100 copies numbered and signed by adapters and illustrator.
Each has a cover/jacket of fun fur; furs vary. Fun-fur coats designed by Rachel Ryan, and machine-sewn by Garland, Eileen and Cara Winsor.