Current Featured Work
Book Covers - Heroine Stories
As an avid reader, stories have played an important role in my life for longer than I can remember. I have learned countless lessons through fictional characters’ eyes, and derived strength from them as well. Folk tales, fairy tales, and legends are a piece of those experiences. However, in hindsight, I realize that few such tales I encountered when I was very young starred women as anything other than foolish, submissive, or damsels in distress. The more "traditional" tales I had read---or seen, in the case of classic Disney films---were predominantly about heroes. They were nice, but I couldn't relate to them. On Halloween, I would dress up as the heroes from my favorite stories, because being the princesses didn't interest me. I didn't want to be rescued; I wanted to be the one doing the rescuing. I wanted stories about strong, clever heroines, too.
Now, years later, I aimed to find those stories, and to tell others about some of my favorites. That is this project. These book covers were created using photographic references, Adobe Illustrator, and the determination to make a point. In the stories represented on these covers, the culturally-diverse female protagonists---from the young to the old---are clever, strong, intelligent, and selfless by varying degrees. They save their best friends, protect their villages, outwit enemies, defend their children, and rescue their men. They are part of the kinds of stories I always wanted to hear or see when I was younger but never knew existed, because they are not the kinds of stories that are shared as much as they should be. These heroines are culturally diverse and empowering, and they are a reminder to both men and women that courage, intelligence, strength, compassion, and ingenuity can be found in all kinds of individuals. I want more people to know that stories and characters like these actually exist, including a multitude of others not represented here. Stories like these are important and should be told, and I hope that someday they are widespread and well-known so they don't require research to locate.
This body of work was my senior project, completed to earn my BFA in Graphic Design at Barry University. Please scroll down to see larger versions of the covers, and typed story summaries for easier reading.
The Legend of the Bluebonnet, as retold by Tomie dePaola - a Comanche Indian legend
The bluebonnet, a thick cluster of vivid blue flowers, covers the hills of Texas in the springtime each year. This is the story of how it came to be. In a time when only Indians live in Texas, the Comanche tribe suffers from a drought. The people have lost much, including crops, animals, and family members. Among the few children left is a small girl named She-Who-Is-Alone, whose entire family died from the famine. She watches as her people pray to the Great Spirits for help, holding the only thing she owns: a warrior doll her parents and grandparents made for her.
The Great Spirits say the people must sacrifice their most valuable possessions, and then the drought will end. Everyone goes to their teepees to [continuesonnextcolumn]
think about what to choose to sacrifice, but She-Who-Is-Alone knows what she must do. During the night, she starts a fire and offers her doll to the Spirits, burning it and thinking of her people's suffering.
The next morning, everyone wakes up to see the hills covered with bright blue flowers, a sign of forgiveness from the Great Spirits. The people thank the Spirits as the rain falls, and from that day on the little girl was known by another name– "One-Who-Dearly-Loved-Her-People." Every spring, the Great Spirits remember her selfless sacrifice and fill the hills and valleys of the land with the bluebonnet flowers, even to this day.
The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen - a Danish fairy tale
Long ago, in a time when trolls lived upon the earth, there was one more evil than all the others. He was called the devil, and he loved to mock people, so he invented a mirror that made everything that was beautiful and good appear horrible and strange. At first, the trolls only played with the mirror, but one day they flew high into the sky with it and it fell out of their hands. It shattered into a million pieces, some as tiny as a grain of sand, and the wind blew them everywhere. If a sliver flew into a person's eye or, worse, if one pierced their heart, nothing looked right to them again and they would turn wicked and cold to the world around them.
Many years later, at a time when these tiny fragments are still swirling through the air, a young boy and girl live near each other and are the best of friends. The boy's name is Kai, and the girl's name is Gerda. One winter, when they are sitting in their favorite rose garden, a sliver from the devil's mirror [continuesonnextcolumn]
into Kai's eye and another pierces his heart. He becomes a different person, no longer good like he was before. Soon after, the cold-hearted Snow Queen abducts Kai and takes him to her palace.
As time passes, the townspeople begin to believe that Kai must have drowned in the icy river, but young Gerda refuses to believe this and she decides to look for him. Gerda goes on a magical and perilously long journey to find her best friend and release him from the Snow Queen's spell. Throughout her quest, she faces many obstacles, but she is helped along the way by strange companions such as a crow, a prince and a princess, a little robber girl, and an old woman. All of them recognize the purity and goodness in Gerda's heart. In the end, it is her innocence and love-driven determination that breaks the Snow Queen's spell and saves her best friend, and they make it home together safe and sound.
Flossie and the Fox, by Patricia C. McKissack - a rural South folk tale
Flossie Finley, a young African American girl filled with saucy wit and humor, is sent by her grandmother to take eggs to their neighbors. As she leaves, Flossie's grandmother gives her a warning: there's a sly, egg-poaching fox on the loose!
But Flossie's never seen a fox before, so when she meets a strange creature in the woods who tells her he's a fox, she's unimpressed. "Nope, I just purely don't believe it," she says after studying him, and challenges him to prove that he really is a fox. The clever fox thinks she's no match for him, but [continuesonnextcolumn]
after every piece of "proof" he gives, Flossie tells him he could easily be a rabbit, rat, cat, or squirrel… but not a fox. She refuses to believe it as she calmly walks on.
The prideful fox is so concerned about proving himself that he forgets all about Flossie's eggs, and he doesn't realize he's been outwitted until it's too late. Flossie makes it to the cabin safe and sound with a full basket, just in time for the neighbors' hound to chase the fox away!
The Serpent Slayer, as retold by Katrin Tchana - a Chinese folk tale
In this old tale from thousands of years ago, China is divided into kingdoms, and a giant serpent dwells in a cave on the mountain of Yung Ling. It eats any flesh it can find, both animals and people, terrifying the villagers. The magistrate has no idea what to do, so he calls for a sorcerer, and Qifu the Greedy arrives. Qifu takes advantage of the frightened people, demanding large fees. He then proclaims the only way to pacify the serpent is to send it a fourteen-year-old maiden each year, on the first day of the eighth month. The girls are chosen by lottery, and all are devoured. The families are so frightened that no one dares to climb the mountain to retrieve the girls' bones and gives them a proper burial. This continues for nine years, until the year Li Chi turns fourteen.
Li Chi grew up watching her neighbors and cousins be sent to the hungry serpent, year after year. The more she thinks about it, the angrier she becomes, deciding to do something about it herself. And so she volunteers to [continuesonnextcolumn]
be chosen for the sacrifice. She requests a good sword, a fearless hunting dog, a parcel of food, a clay bowl, and tools for fire-making, and then she climbs alone.
Once she reaches the serpent's cave, Li Chi tricks it into emerging with the sweet smell of cooking food, then burns it while her little dog bites and scratches its eyes. Before the serpent can recover, Li Chi lifts the sword and strikes its neck again and again until the head is severed and the giant body lies limp. After gathering the last of her strength, she collects the bones of the girls who died such horrible deaths and carries them down the mountain so their families can give them proper burials. Despite this, no one believes her story at first. Only after Li Chi leads the bravest men to see the serpent's body do they accept she killed it, and a great celebration is held to honor the brave girl. Qifu was never heard of again, but the people of Yung Ling have never forgotten Li Chi, and her story is still told to this day.
A Weave of Words , by Robert D. San Souci - an Armenian fairy tale
When Prince Vachagan meets the weaver's daughter, Anait, he immediately falls in love with her and is certain that she will marry him. After all, he's a rich and powerful prince; why wouldn't she? But Anait refuses. "How can I marry a man who doesn't know how to read or write, and who can't earn a living by his own hands?" she asks him. She tells him that if he learns these things, she will be satisfied. Realizing Anait is right, Vachagan masters reading, writing, and weaving. He sends Anait a beautiful carpet woven by his own hands and asks her to marry him, and she agrees. Vachagan teaches Anait to ride and use a sword, and they rule the kingdom side-by-side.
Years later, King Vachagan is taken captive by a monstrous, three-headed dev. The terrifying ogre kills men who have no skills and employs those who [continuesonnextcolumn]
do. Vachagan tells the dev that he can weave a beautiful carpet to sell, but only Queen Anait will see its true worth. Blinded by greed, the dev tells the king to make it, and so Vachagan does--- secretly weaving a message into the border to tell Anait what has happened.
When she receives the carpet and its message, an enraged but determined Queen Anait assembles the kingdom's soldiers and leads an army to the dev's hideout. When her men see the monster and retreat in fear, she boldly faces him alone, even as he laughs at the sight of a woman. She charges and beheads him with three strokes of her sword, fiercely saving her people, rescuing the dev's prisoners, and reuniting with her love.
Staver and Vassilissa, as retold by Katrin Tchana - a Russian fairy tale
The Grand Duke Vladimir throws a feast in the halls of his castle, and many princes, warlords and heroes attend, including Prince Staver. When the grand duke boasts about his wealth and his beautiful wife, Prince Staver tells his neighbor that the duke should not boast so much, because Staver is much wealthier and his wife Vassilissa is the greatest treasure of all. The duke overhears and, being a man of great anger, throws Staver in the dungeon, and orders his men to seize Vassilissa and bring her to the castle.
When Vassilissa receives word of this, she disguises herself as a man and sets out for the grand duke's castle before she can be captured. In her convincing disguise, she tells the warlords she was sent by the Khan of the Golden Hordes to collect the tribute money the duke owes. Everyone is convinced she speaks the truth– everyone, that is, except for the duke’s wife. The duke’s wife whispers to her husband that the ambassador is a woman, and the duke is convinced to test the ambassador’s strength to confirm “he” is a [continuesonnextcolumn]
man. The duke devises three tests: a wrestling contest, an archery competition, and chess matches. "If this is a woman, she will surely lose," he thinks, certain that no woman could be as strong and clever as the warlords.
In every test, Vassilissa defeats all of her competitors, and the duke is foolishly convinced she is a man. Still disguised as the ambassador, she demands the duke provide his payment to the Khan. The duke begs to pay in anything but gold, offering even his wife. Vassilissa pretends to think about his offer, then specifically asks for someone who plays the lute, because she knows that her imprisoned husband Prince Staver is an expert lute player. The duke knows this as well, and gladly hands over the prince as “payment”– pleased that he's avoided paying a golden tribute to the Khan, and oblivious to the fact that Vassilissa and Staver are happily riding back to their castle together.
Heckedy Peg, by Audrey Wood - a European fairy tale
Down dusty roads and far away, a poor mother lives with her seven children named Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Every day before the mother goes to the market, her children help with the chores. One morning, after all of their hard work, the mother says, “Because you are such good children, you may ask for anything you want and I will bring it home from the market.” The children happily make their requests: Monday asks for a tub of butter, Tuesday for a pocket knife, Wednesday for a china pitcher, Thursday for a pot of honey, Friday for a tin of salt, Saturday for crackers, and Sunday for pudding. The mother kisses them all goodbye as she leaves and tells them to not let any strangers into their home.
Soon after, an old witch named Heckedy Peg comes to the cottage. At first, the children refuse to let her in, but she soon tricks them by asking for help in exchange for gold. The children let her in, and the evil witch turns [continuesonnextcolumn]
them into food! Monday becomes bread, Tuesday becomes pie, Wednesday becomes milk, Thursday becomes porridge, Friday becomes fish, Saturday becomes cheese, and Sunday becomes roast rib. The witch then gathers the food and puts it into her cart, taking it to her hut deep in the woods.
When the mother returns home with a full basket but finds her children missing, a bird tells her about Heckedy Pig and leads her to the witch’s hut. The determined mother demands the witch return her children, but Heckedy Peg points to the food and says “If you can’t guess them right the first time, I’ll eat them for my supper!” The loving mother knows her children well, so she pulls out the items they wanted from the market and matches them with the food on the table, identifying them one by one. Just like that, all of the children turn back into themselves! The angry mother chases the horrified Heckedy Peg away, and the witch is never seen again.
The Wise Old Woman , as retold by Yoshiko Uchida - a Japanese folk tale
In a village in Japan, a cruel young lord decrees that anyone over the age of seventy must be taken into the mountains and left to die, claiming they are no longer useful. When a young farmer's mother reaches that age, she insists he carry her up the mountain. But he cannot bear to abandon her, and brings her home, where she hides in a secret room below their kitchen and he cares for her.
Soon after, the powerful overlord of the region threatens to destroy the small village. But the overlord, who respects clever minds, tells the young lord the village will be spared if he can perform three seemingly-impossible tasks. First, one thousand pieces of rope must be made out of ashes. Second, a [continuesonnextcolumn]
single thread must be run through the length of a crooked log. And third, a drum must be made to sound without being beaten.
The young lord gathers his wise men and demands they perform the tasks, but none can. In desperation, he offers rewards to any villager who can help save them all, and the distraught young farmer tells his elderly mother about the tasks. She solves all three with the ease of the wise, saving the entire village as well as her own life--- for when the lord learns the farmer hid his mother and it was she who accomplished the tasks, he asks for forgiveness from his people, and from that day forth he ensures that the elderly are treated with respect.