Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Musings on Hair

Niranjana, this one's for you.

My hair's just grown long enough for me to put it into a coronet. Which I really like, because although the two single braids are fun they aren't quite professional enough for teaching.

When I catch myself in the mirror I am reminded of the above image, from Little Town on the Prairie (drawn by Garth Williams).

But the real reason I'm putting up this picture is because Mr. Williams included another detail, one I didn't notice until I was old enough to realize what it was.

Garth Williams drew fifteen-year-old Laura Ingalls with hairy legs.

When I noticed it, at age nineteen or so (yes, I still reread the Little House books sometimes), I was intensely gratified and wanted to personally thank him.

It almost made up for the fact that no female character until Are You There God, It's Me Margaret ever seemed to go through puberty -- because Mr. Williams cared enough to include a small marker of its existence.

(It's also a reminder that 19th-century American women didn't shave their legs, but that's another topic for another time!)

Click on the image to enlarge the detail. (Copyright Harper, 1953.)


Anonymous said...


what a lovely thing to notice! I love the LIW books too, and insisted on getting the set with the Garth Williams illustrations because they just felt so real to me. I re-read the set fairly often as well - and am quite happy to say so!


Blue said...

Yes -- if you go to Amazon right now you can see that they've redesigned the LH books with new covers featuring photorealistic images... unthinkable! LIW needs Garth Williams and Carroll needs Tenniel and Frances Hodgson Burnett needs Tasha Tudor.

(And -- just in my own opinion -- Streatfeild needs Diane Goode. Even though the original illustrator was Noel's sister.)

Anonymous said...

Oh YES!!! Another believer in the illustrators I LOVE!!

I LOVE the Tenniel illustrations - used to have a set of prints of those around that I meant to frame, when we bought this house - need to find them now! My Burnett does have the Tudor illustrations, but I don't like her books don't care as much!

BTW, do you collect Girls fiction as well? I haven't heard of too many people in the US espousing Girls' fiction - I grew up on a diet of British Girls' fiction, and have been a lifelon gfan - now I collect them!


niranjana said...

Thank you! I can't wait for your post on female epilation--my own take is that it all began as a wicked corporate ploy by Wilkinson Sword to boost sales...

And gosh, YES, about the illustrations. I _really _dislike_ it when books are prettified to suit some marketing suit's idea on appealing to contemporary audiences. My Puffin editions of Noel Streatfield have the Ruth Gervis illustrations, but bear photographs of seventies children on the covers. That is both misleading and just WRONG.

Blue said...

I checked out the LH books a little more closely... and the redesign seems to be to appeal to very young kids. They've got a new tag line: "Little House, Big Adventure!" and the whole thing looks like one of those "Learn-to-Read" chapter books. I'm all for learning to read, of course, but... ick.

Bitterlemons -- I don't exactly collect girls' fiction right now because I don't have the funds to collect anything, but I do have a considerable amount of titles, most of them from when I was a kid and could order fifty-cent copies from the monthly "book order." They're in various stages of falling apart and most of them are in boxes in my mom's attic, but they're there.

Niranjana -- is yours the Ballet Shoes with the yellow cover where three surprisingly adult women are putting on makeup in a dressing room, or the one with a pink border and a white background where the girls all look uncomfortable and angry? ^__^

niranjana said...

Neither! My copy of Ballet Shoes (bought in England) has a butter yellow cover, with photograph of a girl dancing by herself. The photocredit says:

"Front cover of this edition photographed by Peter Chadwick at the Dance Centre, Covent Garden, by kind permission of the management)."

I looked for the cover in Google images and the UK Amazon site, but it doesn't seem to be there...