First Post

This is a space for me to scribble down some “First Thoughts” about what nature looks like in culture. Because it’s a blog, it will primarily be about the “culture” that I walk past or walk into everyday; things I see an experience that touch on my daily life, which is about how most personal blogs go, as far as I can tell from peering through one or two windows into the vast blogosphere. And because it is a personal blog, because it is mine, Laurie Ormond’s, it’s also going to be (occasionally) about fairies.

It would be difficult to write a post about fairies that was not, in some way, also a post about nature, or about how we have thought about nature at some point in time.

I might have heard about fairies first from books, but I met fairies and lived with them in my head when I was outside, in schools’ grounds and in gardens, on the edge of the rainforest or looking up to the tops of mountains.

Still, the books had a pretty heavy impact on the kinds of place I would have considered the likely habitat of fairies. And those places looked like this:

"Fairyland of Ida Rentoul Outhwaite"/verses by Annie R. Rentoul ; stories by Grenbry Outhwaite and Annie R. Rentoul

From "The Enchanted Forest" (1921)  Illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

The Torn Wing


Fairies and Gum Trees

Fairy Beauty Looking Over The Happy Valley

The Waterfall Fairy

Nothing to me has ever seemed quite as definitive a picture of fairy-land as those by Victorian-born illustrator Ida Rentoul Outhwaite. That’s not to say that I was not also a native of the Shirley Barber landscape. And fairy horses, naturally, looked like Rainbow Brite’s Starlight:

while fairy palaces must be as magically impregnable as the Palace of Lady Lovely Locks:

Why did I never notice that the foundations are made of living hair?

Fairyland at first glance is tinted by 80s Technicolour, on the whole, though, fairyland was illustrated by black-and-white line-drawings (especially those in my Reader’s Digest collection of “The World’s Best Fairy Tales”), the kind that seem to capture a moment of movement, the kind that, like the best writing, make a scene all the more real for your ability to distinguish the individual scratches of a pen. The cross-hatchings on Deirdre’s dress convey the feel of fine cloth against fair skin more than any of Barber’s beautifully tinted gauzes. Line-drawings, like the sparse telling of folk-tales themselves, are true illustrations because they leave so much room for the imagination.

Although my favourite illustrator to capture the stark but exotic nature of the choices you get offered in a fairy tale is definitely Jan Pienkowski, whose sillhoutettes draw you into the story more deeply than any glitteringly sharpened coloured pencil…

It never bothered me that so many of the landscapes were not particularly Australian ones – I approved of landscapes and gardens if they were romantic and fantastic enough – this did not exclude Australian plants, because when I was little I don’t remember knowing the difference; I never knew one plant as native and another as introduced, or one plant as a weed from another state and another one as part of the local habitat. I still think of the spicy smell of lantana as the smell of the rainforest, because it, vociferous weed, clamours noisily at the edges of the rainforest’s deeply textured and quieter dark greens.

To me at eight (and let’s be honest, although more secretly, through to about 15) the FNQ rainforest – or the edges of it that I visited – were a perfect setting for the medievalist fairy courts and spaces of adventure that lived in these books and in my head.

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9 Responses to First Post

  1. hila says:

    Hey Laurie, nice to see you in blogland, fairies and all πŸ™‚

    p.s. I love that your “about” section says “almost finished her PhD thesis”. That sure sounds good!

  2. laurieormond says:

    Hi Hila! Now I have someone new to add to my blogroll! I love that art-on-the-streets posts (I guess I should be saying that in your comments section rather than mine). This blogging is fun. Let’s hope I keep it up!

  3. Grace says:


    I have missed reading your writing Laurie!

    A delicious read as always πŸ™‚

    I particularly liked the part about FNQ being a place likely to be inhabited by magical creatures and your description about the vines!

    • laurieormond says:

      Hi Grace!
      There used to be two red glowing signal-lights on top of two of the hills above the highway between the beaches into Cairns. When the sky was the right colour – that is to say, the very end of the twilight when it was not-blue-not-pearl-not-grey – I was sure even that those signal lights were just a disguise for a dragon curled along the mountain-top that could turn itself invisible except for his two fierce red eyes…

      • Grace says:

        mmm i know the time and place you mean!

        I used to look at one of the hills near Brinsmead and think that it looked like a giant who was just taking a rest, as the silhouette of the hills looked like a profile of a giant’s face, and that at any moment the vegetation would crumble and fall off him as he stood up…..

  4. Michelle D says:

    More please!
    I love the photo at the top it looks just like the sort of place my idea of fairies would inhabit.
    Perhaps my idea of the magical world has been strongly influenced by yours πŸ™‚

  5. hila says:

    thanks Laurie! I’ll be adding your blog to my blogroll πŸ™‚

  6. Sylvia says:

    Hiya! Yay! Welcome to blog world! I love the idea behind this blog – I look forward to reading your posts with great anticipation. Looking at the fairy pictures was like a trip back into my childhood – although i cannot claim such an intimate aquaintance with fairyland as you have, these images were the same ones that formed my images of fairies and their environments when I was growing up. (Well, not the cartoon ones, to be honest, living in a cartoon blackout as I did!) Whatever happened to that book of postcards?

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