Errol Le Cain’s Sleeping Beauty: Rich and Magical

Isn’t it strange how some childhood moments stay with you so clearly, while most things fade into a half remembered muddle? It was just before Christmas, many years ago when I was just a little girl. My family were getting into the car to go home after a visit to the bookshop in Cape Town. My father was holding a brown paper packet. I tried to peep into it and caught a glimpse of two books, but my father whisked them away before I could get a proper look.


That packet re-appeared again under the Christmas tree, and contained Errol Le Cain’s Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

I’ve already written about his illustrations for Cinderella, which you can see at this link. I wish I could include all the drawings in this book, but I’ve chosen the ones that I remember best. Above is the frontispiece, showing Beauty’s first sight of a spinning wheel. Just look at that sumptuous dress, and the little mouse sitting there, watching her.

Here is the procession of the twelve good fairies on their way to the christening.

Does it look familiar? Maybe you remember Botticelli’s Prima Vera:

Here is a closer look at the Errol Le Cain version. It reminds me of a tapestry, especially those flowers in the grass:

This one shows the arrival of the evil fairy at the christening. She is furious at being left out. You cant see it so clearly in this picture, but she is surrounded by autumn leaves, a nice contrast to the springtime of the “prima vera” fairies.

Beauty’s parents attempt to avoid fate by having all the spinning wheels in their country destroyed. Notice the evil fairy overlooking this, sitting up there on her little dragon, while the good fairy sadly looks on the destruction.

This is one of my favorite scenes. Beauty grows up, and the eve of her 15th birthday she wanders about in unfamiliar parts of her home. Can you see the little devil-fairy-imps that surround her?

She finds a strange little room, with a strange little old lady, sitting at the spinning wheel. In the image its a bit small, but the shadows on the floor are particularly lovely.

Once she falls asleep, the entire castle is stricken with the magical sleep. Here you can see the prince finding the castle after it has been asleep for a hundred years.

Even the wild animals are sleeping:

He finds these strange scenes in the castle itself. These images remind me of the paintings of Gustav Klimt:

And here, at last, he finds the Sleeping Beauty. Notice her hair has been spun into the spiderwebs, and the stained glass shadows on her blankets.

Errol Le Cain illustrated many books, but these two, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, remain my favorites.

If you liked his drawings, you will probaly also like these:

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alicia
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 21:59:50

    You have inspired me to go out and get these books! They are wonderful.

    Here from NaComLeavMo

  2. Andy
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 23:09:26

    What amazing images! Thank you for sharing!!

  3. masha
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 04:37:22

    Thanks for visiting!

  4. Kim
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 21:32:57

    Wow what beautiful illustrations! Thanks for sharing! NCLM

  5. Sam
    Jun 08, 2008 @ 10:31:57

    What gorgeous pictures, all children’s books should be illustrated so beautifully. I need to go and buy myself some of those books just so that I can lose myself in those pictures.

    By the way, if you fancy a small challenge, I’ve tagged you to come up with a six word memoir – there is the option to illustrate it with a picture, so it makes me wonder what picture you’d come up with you memorialise your life!

  6. M
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 15:15:36

    One of the major reasons I love to check out the children’s book section is for the illustrations. These are two examples of truly amazing illustrations. I, too, love the tapestry look. Definitely some books I’ll have to look for in the future.


  7. DC
    Jun 10, 2008 @ 05:12:03

    Primavera is one of my favorite pieces of art. The Uffizi Gallery is AMAZING!

    Love these illustrations. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. u l a n
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 12:16:35

    Ohmy. These are exquisite. Thank you for sharing these illustrations. I’m going to make a note of the artist!

  9. masha
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 12:21:58

    thanks ulan –
    I’ve got many more of his books – if you liked him, you will like Gennady Spirin as well.

  10. Trackback: The Hamish Hamilton Book of Princesses « Masha
  11. pilarcat
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 15:57:47

    Oh! This is so gorgeous! I wish I could have this book in my hands right now. You have a beautiful treasure here. I envy you :-P.

    Thanks for sharing. I wonder if I can find the book in the amazon, I’m sure the bookshops in my city won’t have it.

  12. mashadutoit
    Jun 01, 2009 @ 16:12:03

  13. simonsterg
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 13:23:41

    Great how blogs connect – I clicked the Errol le Cain tag on my blog
    and see this one. This is a book I have, and I agree the illustrations are amazing. Which I suppose can be said for all of his work!

  14. mashadutoit
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 13:32:15

    Ooh! I love the Mulla Nasrudin. And I never would have made that connection. But its there, al the same 🙂 Thanks for that link. Nasrudin is a great reality check.

  15. Trackback: lines and colors :: a blog about drawing, painting, illustration, comics, concept art and other visual arts » Errol Le Cain « Blogbook
  16. Denyse Tessensohn
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 08:50:27

    Hello Masha
    The Eurasian Association of Singapore is contemplating a Permanent Exhibition on the life and art of Errol Le Cain, who was Eurasian and from Singapore.
    I am writing his biography and would be glad to hear from you on how his art has impacted on your own creativity. If you should have any information on his life and unpublished art,
    please email me at
    Good wishes
    Denyse Tessensohn

  17. Cream with Collagen
    Apr 16, 2012 @ 06:00:01

    Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire in fact loved account your weblog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing for your feeds and even I fulfillment you access constantly fast.

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