Beautiful illustration by Winona Nelson
When thinking about what I wanted to do for my master's project, it made the most sense to follow through on the themes I've been more or less obsessed with for the last few years: dark fairytales, Germany, and the early 19th century.
The university library fortunately had facsimile versions of the orignal publications by the Brothers Grimm; both the first editions published in 1812 and 1815 (the latter being a follow-up of 'new' and different stories), and the last and most famous edition from 1857. The first couple editions apparently weren't wildly successful, but after the third edition (which included all the tales from the first two) was published in 1819, the book started to garner a following and eventually became as well-known as it is today.
Title page of the first edition of Grimms' Fairytales or more properly, Kinder und Hausmärchen.
After reading through the original text, I eventually decided to design for the tale, The Girl Without Hands. This story is not nearly as well known as other Grimm tales, perhaps because in spite of a happy ending, it is at it's core rather gruesome and phsycologically horrific. It also was the only story to spark a strong visceral reaction when I was reading... that is, when I was reading it in German. The next day I read a few English translations which were unbearably formal and stiff, perhaps providing another reason for it's lack of fame.
Regarding the costume design, I have decided to set the story in an alternate version of Germany shortly after the release of the compiled third edition of Kinder und Hausmärchen in 1819. I'm looking at a lot of 19th century traditional German costume (or Tracht, as it's officially called) plus court dress and everyday wear of German royalty and nobility during the early 1820s.