Saturday, October 19, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Yellow Dwarf, 1820

The Yellow Dwarf
English, 1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This hand-colored sketch dates to about 1820 and depicts a character from “The Yellow Dwarf” which ran at the Drury Lane Theatre.

The popular play was based on the French fairytale of the same name. If you’re not familiar with the story of “The Yellow Dwarf,” let me see if I can summarize it for you. Once upon a time, etc., there was a princess who was so beautiful that every king in the land vied for her hand. However, she was so beautiful that each man knew he’d never have her, and, they gave up. The princess’ mother feared her daughter would never marry. Since this seemed to be an unacceptable thing at the time, the Queen went to see “The Fairy of the Desert” in order to arrange for a groom for her daughter.

The Fairy of the Desert was guarded by lions. The Queen, fearing, she’d be torn apart by the giant cats, allowed The Yellow Dwarf (named Gam-Bogie) to protect her. In exchange, she agreed to let the dwarf marry her daughter. The Queen was lying, however, just to keep from being killed by lions, and was, oddly enough, shocked when The Yellow Dwarf showed up looking for his new bride. To make matters worse, while her mother was out bothering fairies, the princess found a husband in the form of the King of the Gold Mines. The Queen tried to send the dwarf away, but, the dwarf was understandably annoyed, so, he went to get the Fairy of the Desert to help him. The dwarf took the princess. The fairy took the King. Everyone cried. Lots of weird stuff happened. The King finally escaped, but the dwarf killed him and the princess died of grief. A mermaid turned them both into trees—as one does.

And, the moral of the story is: Don’t tick off a magic dwarf.

I imagine that the play was quite a lot like that. This promotional image was intended for use on posters and is the work of one H. Brown. 

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