The Trials of “Sir Winter”

If you’re like us, your office is freezing and your commute is worse, and you’re just about fed up with the “polar vortex”. With all this cold weather almost everyone is frankly, sick of winter. But did you ever stop to think about how poor Sir Winter himself feels? After all, he’s just doing his job (and doing it well this season) but he receives so much scorn.

So here’s a picture book story to warm your heart a little and perhaps remind you that Old Man Winter, for his part, has it bad too:






babyWe’ll just have to wait and see what the groundhog says on Sunday about the arrival of the infant Spring (as if you won’t be watching the Super Bowl instead). Hopefully we’ll see him soon!


Images and text from: “Sir Winter,” in Laughter Book for Little Folks (New York: James Miller, [ca 1880]), p. 11-13.  Cotsen 5847

Laughter Book consists of five publications, including reprints from earlier English editions of Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter and Konig Nussknacker.

The source for the images of “Sir Winter” is from the artist Moritz von Schwind’s “Denn Weihnachten hat der Winter gebracht,”published in Die Fliegende Blatter 6 (1847), nr. 124, s. 27.

Reference: Ruehle, Reiner, Boese Kinder (1999), 767.

A 15th Anniversary Spectacle of Skeletons

Fifteen years ago today Cotsen opened its gallery doors to the public.   Perhaps we should have drawn people into the space with a seasonal spooktacular, but the previous day’s ribbon-cutting took all the wind out of our sails.  So here to celebrate the occasion are some ghoulish pictures to chill the funny bone and to jolt the brain from Cotsen’s Skelt and Webb Toy Theater Collection.

skeletons and their friendly poisonous reptilesThese pictures of skeletons and their friendly poisonous reptiles come from prints that were part of a juvenile theatre play based on Blue Beard or Female Curiosity!, (1798) a “grand dramatic romance” with script by George Colman the younger and score by Michael Kelly.   Colman and Kelly’s dramatic take on Perrault’s celebrated but grisly fairy tale was inspired by French composer Gretry’s  opera Raoul Barbe Bleue (1789), but they turned it into an over-the-top  “Oriental” fanasy inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.  But why skeletons and not djinns? 

Think of Shakespeare set during the American Civil War or the Roaring Twenties.   It’s the concept, not historical accuracy, that counts.  If Colman and Kelly could reconceive  Bluebeard  as Abomelique, the Turkish tyrant or three-tailed bashaw who was preceded by a standard of horse tails (oh yes, there were live horses on stage), then it’s not such a leap of imagination to have the wife-killing villain stabbed to death by a skeleton and escorted down to hell by a platoon of his vengeful friends.   No wonder the critics hated Colman and Kelly’s alternative to the holiday pantomime and the audiences loved it.

battling skeletons

And if this comes knocking at your door tonight, throw away the healthy treats!

imp riding a bat

Thanks to Mr. Cotsen for making this blog, and everything else Team Cotsen does possible!