Fitcher’s Bird

Fitcher's Bird

The Grimms brothers collected material from many storytellers to compile their first book of folktales, published in what is now Germany, in 1812. In ‘Fitcher’s Bird’ an evil Wizard abducts young pretty girls who he brutally murders as soon as they disobey him by entering a forbidden room in his castle. He is eventually outwitted by the youngest of three sisters who disguises herself as a bird, brings her sisters back to life and burns the wizard, his castle and all of his wedding guests to the ground.

Featuring a spirited heroine as the agent of her own salvation the story encapsulates collective truths about romance and love. The youngest sister’s merciless revenge against the evil male protagonist encourages women to elude unwanted lovers and speaks out against the culture of arranged marriages. It was more common for fairy tales to tell the opposite message. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ by Jeanne Marie LePrince de Beaumont 1757 (first published in a girls magazine) is a classic example; celebrated as the quintessential story of romantic love, demonstrating its power to transcend physical appearances, the story also subtly prepares young girls for an alliance with a much older man.

The predatory Wizard in ‘Fitcher’s Bird’ shows many similarities to Perrault’s Bluebeard, both murderous bridegrooms in stories that are entangled with references to female sexual curiosity and desire. Much of the frankness about sex has been censored over time from Grimms’ tales but the violence remains. The Wizard’s horrific murders are counterbalanced when the youngest sister mercilessly burns the castle down. In the painting she is the only character engaging the viewer with eye contact and we see the strength, determination and responsibility in her expression as she plans revenge. The theme of a younger sibling triumphing where the elder two have failed, seen in many fairy tales, challenges the accepted order of older as wiser.

The colours in the sisters’ skin tone changes from cold to warm visualising the magic which brings them back to life. There is a similar colour shift between the black and white clothing and the reds of the fire.


Oil on canvas
Width 152cm
Height 122cm

Based on a Grimms fairy tale - see below image for text