The Singing Bones

This book is a collection of 75 clay figurines inspired by Grimm's fairy tales, theatrically photographed and accompanied by short excerpts from each story.

The Singing Bones takes it's title from a Grimm's fairy tale about the bone of a slain boy that, once carved into a flute, sings of fate and injustice. It's a theme that runs through many European fairy tales, and reflects the generational memory of oral story-telling – as dark as it is playful – leading to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's 1812 collection Children's and Household Tales. Interestingly this work was not intended for children, yet became a source of persistent fascination for readers of any age and the inspiration for many artists and illustrators over subsequent centuries. My own book features 75 sculptural works that I constructed and photographed between 2012 and 2015. They originally grew out of the German project Grimms Märchen, a retelling of 50 classic tales by Philip Pullman, published by Aladin in 2013 – a terrific book, only inaccessible to readers who don't read German.

Naturally I was very keen to bring my illustrations to readers in other languages, but other editions of Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old precluded this (and worked perfectly fine without them). In any case, there were also many other stories I wished to illustrate so I continued making more sculptures, drawing upon such tales as Thumbling, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids and Snow White and Rose Red, as well as others less well known. Given the original tales are in the public domain, I decided to make my own book. I enlisted the help of acclaimed fairy tale academic Jack Zipes, who I'd met a couple of times during international travels; a very friendly guy whose enthusiasm for folk tales is highly infectious. Jack offered editorial advice as well as an enlightening introduction touching on the history of visual interpretation of Grimms fairy tales, and Philip was kind enough to write a wonderful foreword for the Australian edition, acknowleding the link between the two books.

The book was launched in Melbourne in October 2015, and accompanied by a complete exhibition of my sculptures and No Vacancy Gallery. Visitors were also invited to make their own Grimm-inspired sculptures from plasticine on a large table, as much visited by adults as children (the children's work was definitely the scariest!).

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‘Yes,’ his wife responded with a sigh. ‘If only we had a child, just one, even if it were tiny and no bigger than my thumb, I’d be quite satisfied. We’d surely love him with all our hearts.'

The farmer did not know what to do with the turnip, nor did he know whether it would bring him luck or misfortune.

She had such big teeth that the maiden was scared and wanted to run away. But the old woman cried after her, ‘Why are you afraid, my dear child? Stay with me, and if you do all the housework properly, things will turn out well for you.'

‘If you hire yourself out to me as my servant,’ the devil said, ‘you’ll have enough for the rest of your life. There’s just one thing I’ve got to tell you: you’re not allowed to wash yourself, comb your hair, trim your beard, cut your nails or hair, or wipe your eyes for seven years.’

‘Oh, we know you found the Water of Life,’ said the two wicked older brothers, ‘but we’re the ones who’ve received the reward for all your trouble.

 ‘Oh, Mother Trudy, I was so petrified. I looked through the window and didn’t see you, but I saw the devil with a fiery head!’