What's this fairly creepy illustration I saw in a book as a child?
November 25, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

What's this fairly creepy illustration I saw in a book as a child?

This was a (probably) monochrome drawing, full-page, of a woman being eaten by a large, troll-like creature, somewhere in a book of (I assume) creepy short stories. This was from my elementary school library, so I also add the assumption that it was probably not a book ostensibly for adults.

Now that I am older, I can clearly see that it was a reference (to be kind) to Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son. However, I recall some distinct differences. First, it was clearly a woman as the victim. Second, in an attempt to spare our childish sensibilities, she was not nude, but rather dressed in a sheer nightgown. (Yes, people being eaten is okay, hey, thatsa naked lady! is bad.) Third, the woman's head, up to her shoulders, was in the creature's significantly larger mouth; she was dangling limply, like some prey item being digested by an enormous frog. Fourth, the humanoid itself was in nearly full profile, rather than staring madly bulge-eyed at the viewer.

The book would have been published prior to 1986.

This was not the Very Scary Stories series — I have all of them and have checked. Additionally, the stories were substantially longer than the quickies in that series. I am less certain that this was not from the Joan Kahn-edited series, such as Some Things Weird and Wicked. I have not finished purchasing all of them, however, and continue to try to track down full-sized, illustrated versions.

And, before you ask, no, this is not a 'vore fetish thing.
posted by adipocere to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like something from one of the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark books, unless that's what you meant by "Very Scary Stories."
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:55 AM on November 25, 2008

Sorry, those are the ones I meant. I'm not sure how I got that mixed up.
posted by adipocere at 8:04 AM on November 25, 2008

Maybe an Edward Gorey book? I'm thinking perhaps The Wuggly Ump?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:36 AM on November 25, 2008

No, this was not in the basically creepy-but-lighthearted tone of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — ever notice that the critters in them are rarely attacking anyone? They tread a fine line.

Definitely not Gorey and his whimsical feel. These are illustrations interspersed throughout short stories, and this was grim. Think dark and unabashedly nightmare-inducing for kids.

Most of the background in it was dark. Basically, imagine the above-referenced Goya painting and someone tried to make a kid-friendly (ha!) version of it.
posted by adipocere at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2008

Sorry, not an answer to your question, but that link to the Goya painting brings back so many memories. My father is an artist and he had a collection of art books, one was about Goya. I used to sit and stare at that painting all the time. It was (and still is) a frightening image.
posted by scarello at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2008

I seem to remember this, too - I thought it might be from D'Aulaire's books of Greek or Norse myths, but I just checked, and nope. Maybe their Troll book?
posted by HopperFan at 11:07 AM on November 25, 2008

Maybe on of the D’Aulaire books either greek or norse myths.
posted by pianomover at 11:19 AM on November 25, 2008

I will give the troll book a shot as something to investigate, but (and I know how odd this sounds) my sense-memory associated with the image makes me feel as if the surrounding text was not just English, but vaguely gaslit Victorian, like a weary old hotel throughout which prowled an unwelcome guest who popped out at night to dine upon the unwary, slightly mad au pair. It has the same tenuous British associations I have for rhymes like "here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head," if that makes any sense to anyone but me.
posted by adipocere at 11:39 AM on November 25, 2008

Are you thinking of these covers for the H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus collections?
1, 2 & 3

Not sure if they match your description exactly, but with the multiple covers in the same style it seems like they could be merging together slightly in your memory? 3 has the scantily clad humans being eaten by a large mouthed troll. While 1 & 2 together look like the Goya to me.

Also, they're Lovecraft, so vaguely gaslit Victorian text sounds right.
posted by mtarbit at 2:12 PM on November 25, 2008

The Lovecraft stuff is neat, but that's not it. This was almost certainly monochrome. It's as if someone started with the above-mentioned Goya, made it black and white, and then made the four alterations above. And the illustration was in the book, rather than on the cover. As if to surprise unwary children, which it most certainly did.

And I have pondered going back to my elementary school library, in the hopes that they'd have it ... however, that's just a trifle over the top.
posted by adipocere at 2:33 PM on November 25, 2008

Sounds like it might be an illustration from Faeries.
posted by coevals at 7:10 PM on November 25, 2008

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