East of the Sun & West of the Moon

We love books at our house.

Even the cat gets in on the book-love!

Even the cat gets in on the book-love!

When my mother came to visit for my baby shower she brought all my kids books (or at least MOST of them – my sister got to keep the ones with her name in them EVEN THOUGH SHE DOESN’T HAVE ANY CHILDREN. AND SHE’S IN AFRICA AND CAN’T READ THEM ANYWAYS. Plus I think she hid my copy of Eloise somewhere. Luckily they still sell the version with the fold out elevator scene. Otherwise, even being in AFRICA couldn’t save her). Anyways, included in my children’s book collection was East of the Sun & West of the Moon, one of the greatest fairy tales no one has ever heard of. My copy is written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer – who is better known for his Little Critter books. (Although he also wrote Frog, Where Are You? Which I also own. In case you didn’t already guess that.) My copy is from a 1987 printing and is in terrible shape:

IMG_3556 But this story? It’s amaaaaaaaazing. As are the illustrations. Let me tell you about it. So there’s this farmers daughter who enjoys being beautiful and rich and is, well, kind of a snotty bitch. Then her family’s luck turns and she’s forced to do stuff like hunt for quail which totally ruins her manicure and all her suitors are like “Sorry we don’t do chicks with bad cuticles.”  Then on top of THAT her father gets sick. Her mother sends little miss snotty on a journey to this magic spring to get some magic water. The girl is all “whatevs, it’s not going to help, and this spring is all gross anyways”. Suddenly a talking frog appears and offers to help her out by clearing the water in return for promising to grant him three wishes. I could have told her what they were going to be ahead of time but apparently she lives in a land where no one’s ever read a fairy tale before.


So her pops drinks the water and gets better and they all get rich again and the chick totally forgets she promised this frog he could come visit her. And then – shocker! – he shows up like “Yo, girl, how you doin’?” She tolerates him for like a week until the frog says he second wish is that she marry him. Now, I can’t really blame her for being a little weirded out by that (how exactly does THAT honeymoon work out?) but her reaction is to throw the poor frog against a wall and kill him. Murders in children’s books are so awesome. So she’s sitting there wondering WTF she’s going to do with this dead frog when all of a sudden he turns into a handsome Youth. Gasp, a Youth! And then some demons drag him off to a land east of the sun and west of the moon to marry, who else, the Goblin Princess.

IMG_3558 So the chicky suddenly realizes she’s been totally buggin’ this whole time and she’s really in luuuuuv with Youth. So she sets off on an adventure to find the land east of the sun and west of the moon. P.S. The adventures involve a UNICORN. Because what’s a fairy tale without a unicorn? So anyways she eventually make it to the Goblin Princess’ house and talks her way in as a maid but knows she has to find Youth fast because maybe all those stone statues that look just like people aren’t such a good sign.

IMG_3559 Luckily, the Goblin Princess forgets the number one rule of villany – don’t ever tell the heroine NOT to clean behind a specific door. It’s like saying “THIS IS WHERE I HIDE STUFF”. Duh. So the farmer’s daughter finds Youth frozen in a block of ice and sets it on fire to thaw him out. Then she uses her badass quail hunting skills to kill the Goblin Princess (murder count: 2) while Youth just stands around looking all damp and helpless:

IMG_3560 So the Troll Princess turns to wood and all the other trolls turn to stone and all the stone people turn back into people. And the peasants rejoice! Then the maiden and the youth become king and queen of a totally equal and non-patriarchal society and live happily ever after.
IMG_3561 Awesome, right? Apologies for the poor picture quality, I was too scared to pull the book apart even more by trying to scan it.

6 Responses to “East of the Sun & West of the Moon”

  1. I’ve totally read that book! I’d also recommend the D’aularies book of Greek myths (and Norse myths while you’re at it) if you didn’t have that growing up. Amazing illustrations, good story telling! We pulled ours to pieces loving it as kids, and every time a family friend has a baby my dad gives them one :D

  2. sarrible says:

    I am amazed that Jim Henson wasn’t all over that shit. I can totally see David Bowie in drag as the Goblin Princess.

    I LOVE the D’Aulaires book of Greek myths. It’s fantastic. I read the copy we had so many times it fell apart.

  3. bebehblog says:

    Thanks guys, I’ll check out those D’Aulaires books ASAP!

  4. AGreenEyeDevil says:

    Have you seen the “In the Woods” picture books for children? It has the MOST AMAZING photographs of deer in the snow and nature! My other favorite children’s book, because of the illustrations, is “Trunks All Aboard: An Elephant ABC”. It uses the early 1900’s drawings of Cornelius Van Horne which showcased stylized elephants doing human tasks. Van Horne did the drawings for his grandson as a way of sharing his travels w/the toddler.

  5. Brigid Keely says:

    Augh! I had that book! It was soooo cool.

    I like your rendition of the story.

    “The Frog Prince” also features a frog, a princess, a well (fetching her golden ball out of it), a forced romantic relationship, and the princess tone cold killing the frog upon which he turns into a handsome prince and they live happily ever after the end.

    Moral of the story: Ladies, if your dudes are ugly, murder them and then you get a hottie. The end.

  6. Erin (i need to think of a fake name) says:

    Wow, beautiful pictures!!!! I’m sad to say that childhood me would never have like it, with the whole hating everything in the fantasy genre thing. I was a kid who loved Little House on the Prairie and hated Alice in Wonderland. In fact I hated all fantasy books right up until once upon a time when I had a roommate who MADE me go see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and then within four days had to hide the fourth book in the series so that I would actually sleep and maybe study for my finals. Thanks Suzanne :)

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