The Tale of Mr. Tod - Illustrations


The Tale of Mr. Tod is longer than the typical Potter tale with 16 colour illustrations and a series of 42 black and white drawings, one illustration per page. The illustrations depict the wider landscape of Near Sawrey: Bull Banks, Oatmeal Crag, and Esthwaite Water. The interior of Mr. Tod's house provided the opportunity to present details of the interiors of village homes. In the frontispiece, Mr. Tod stands on a stone flag floor against a timber wall of muntin and plank construction (interlocking thick and thin vertical panels) covered with a sage-green limewash. A tea caddy, a silver salt, and blue and white willow china decorate his kitchen. The beehive-shaped brick oven was drawn from the one at the Sun Inn in Hawkshead and serves as a place for Brock to hide the bunnies. Emphatic frames in the black and white illustrations give the impression of woodcuts. Potter believed a black frame pulled a picture together and sent back the distance. Potter made the kitchen dim to eliminate some detail of the battle between Tod and Brock.

Scholar Ruth K. MacDonald argues that the black and white illustrations emphasize the mythic, permanent quality of the tale with heavy black lines that display little of the delicacy characteristic of Potter's work. She suggests these pictures are more like woodcuts in their heaviness than drawings, and points out they were not "tossed off" to satisfy fans and her publisher, but deliberately planned to give an antique, primitive quality to the story in the manner of Caxton's woodcuts for his edition of Aesop's Fables.

She notes that the colour illustrations are not vignetted nor surrounded with heavy black lines but rather with a white border that prevents the pastels from fading into the background. The lightness of the pastels and the overall green tones of the colour illustrations contrast with the heavy lines of the black and white pictures and the blocks of print, and this contrast produces a sense of fading because of antiquity yet suggest permanence, "as the greenness of nature is permanent and recurring in the cycle of seasons."

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