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Thomas Aquinas Maguire’s illustrative adaptation of “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Anderson | TBL Pt. 2

Thomas Aquinas Maguire's adaptation of "The Wild Swans" by Hans Christian Anderson's

Author: Hans Christian Anderson, Thomas Aquinas Maguire (Illustrator)
Publisher: Simply Read Books; Box Pap/Bk edition, 2012
ISBN 13: 978-1897476369
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 104
Rating: –


I recently wrote a blog on an unusual and beautiful series of wordless picture books, called Three Little Dreams. It was a stunning piece of art which challenged the definition of a book. The same author and illustrator, Thomas Aquinas Maguire, has come up with a similar, but more complex work in Hans Christian Anderson’s The Wild Swans. It is a fold out book which, when extended fully, is over 60 feet long. It is presented in an amazing gift box. The box and pages themselves felt as if they were handcrafted especially for me–such was the quality of the work. It tells the tale of Hans Christian Andersons classic, but with a twist–It is completely wordless. When this came through the post box I was immediately intrigued. The box is shown below:


The box itself is a thing of beauty, full of dark shades and gold print. I was extremely careful when opening it up. Inside contains what seems like a huge card bundle. One must carefully begin at the start and work their way through the story. It can be difficult at times to handle, but the effort is well worth it. Like I said before, there is a feel about the box and story itself, as if it was made especially for you. It feels like a rare item that must be cherished. The pages are shown here.


Maguire has an unusual style of illustration. There is something dark and grotesque in his drawings. Yet, they are stunning. The book is done completely in greyscale. The Swans and the young girl Eliza are beautifully drawn in the story. The landscapes are painstakingly detailed, each ranging from palaces, to forests, then to lakes. I could not help but marvel at the thousands of hours it must have taken Maguire to complete this book. The narrative flows without difficulty. It is a long tale and the illustrations match that. I enjoyed the dark nature of the story. It is a bleaker version of Andersons’s tale born out in pencil and black pen.

Here an example of some of my favorite illustrations from the book.


The above shows Eliza in the forest. It is an example of the sometimes disturbing nature of the drawings.


Eliza on her way to the lake. The shading and the grey tones really create a sinister atmosphere in the book.


There is a grotesque nature to the creatures in the story. Maguire’s expert handiwork are shown here as the hair melts seamlessly into the background while Eliza is rescued by the prince.

This book defies definition. I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful a piece of literature this books is. It feels like I’m cheating calling it a book. It is a piece of art first and foremost. If you are into illustration or art work, don’t hesitate to buy this book. If you love picture books and are an adult, this is a must for you. I would say that children may not enjoy this book because of its dark elements and also because of the 60 foot folding out the pages–it might be an ordeal. This book needs to be cherished and looked after as a gift.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions on this book as I know it is a difficult concept. It really is an innovative and outrageous book in certain respects. Let me know what you think!

The Black Lion Paw

About the Author and Illustrator

Hans Christian Andersen was a product of two towns, two social environments, two worlds and two ages. Both as a man and as a writer he thus continually developed and changed, but was also in constant dialogue with himself and even at times at war with himself. Thus his social rise provides the direct and indirect motif in many of his tales, novels and plays, both as a productive source in his search for a new and more comprehensive identity and as a source of perpetual and unresolved traumas. | Short Bio

Thomas Aquinas Maguire is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books. His first book A Growling Place was published by Simply Read Books in August 2007. His second release from Simply Read Books Three Little Dreams is a collection of three fold-out books, it was released in the summer of 2010. In 2011 Simply Read Books released Maguires’ third picture book The Wild Swan.


Text © 2014 LIGHTLIT
Re-print © 2014 The Black Lion Journal
Re-printed with permission.
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