The following is an excerpt from "SEVERELY EMBELLISHED TALES, Volume I, A Critical Essay on the Inherent Risks of Using Substandard Construction Materials, The Untold Version of the Story Originally Entitled The Three Little Pigs. Create one illustration. No need to add color. The price is negotiable. I just want to see what the illustrator might do for my book.
"In those days folk still believed in witches and trembled at a curse…” Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped
Once upon a time...
Our odyssey is set in merry old England when tales of King Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, and his Knights of the Round Table were yet common and often embellished. During this period in the history of England, it was typical to find Saxons, Normans, Danes, Vikings and Celts throughout the land. It was during the time of the evolution and development of imbricate armour, chain mail and other innovations in weaponry.
There in the fabled dark forest of Ewing, from the minuscule mole to the majestic moose, all manner of beasts still flourish and stalk the verdured expanse. Overhead, winged creatures -- owls, hawks, eagles, sparrows, wrens, finches, ravens, falcons, grackles, throstles, woodpeckers, titmice and swallows -- abound and fill the skies with their cacophonous din.
In addition to the beasts and birds, the forest teems with insects, arachnids and multifarious creepy-crawlies of all shapes, colours and sizes. From the microscopic to the most prodigious, each member of this terrestrial ecosystem has its assigned purpose from the Creator. Though some thrive via predation, most are by nature herbivorous, battening on the leaves, seeds and fruit available in abundant variety. In addition to feeding the great host of forest denizens, the green growing things are burdened with an additional task critical to the survival of all, labouring constantly to gather sunlight, to extract moisture and carbon dioxide from the air for the process of photosynthesis, during the course of which they exude essential oxygen as a byproduct.
Though a great deal could be written on the subject, our tale is not so much concerned with the natural wonders -- the flora and fauna of Ewing Forest, but more so with what lies just beyond the natural. Indeed, one of several leitmotifs of this tale is the contrast between the natural and the unnatural. It is undeniably true that when one ventures into these enchanted woods, it is the majesty of creation which immediately arrests the eye and awes the mind. It is whispered, however, that there is much more to life in Ewing Forest than meets the eye. To this day, the residents resolutely maintain their sylvan setting is also home to orphic, preternatural creatures. The lore of the forest is permeated by an innate knowledge of trolls, goblins, nymphs, lycanthropes, leprechauns, elves, selkies, banshees, bogarts, sprites, lamias, imps, kobolds, sirens, ogres, gnomes, dryads, fairies, poltergeists and a host of other tellurians and incorporeities yet to be named and hitherto unknown -- of things that go bump in the night, if you will.
According to legend, some of the larger unnatural beings such as trolls, ogres and goblins are bold and fierce, fearing neither man nor beast. The smaller creatures such as sprites, imps and fairies are timid and wary even of each other, even of their own shadows. It is for this reason the lattermost and their ilk are ofttimes collectively referred to as the "hidden folk.” Moreover, it is claimed that the more nimble among the hidden folk are mutable, able to engage in transmogrification —- shapeshifting, if you will —- to instantly assume the forms of mice and toads and other small zoomorphic creatures in order to avoid being discovered.
Some of the hidden folk are arboreal in nature, opting to dwell high in the forest canopy, whilst others reside below in burrows and the hollows of trees. While there may well be some forms which are crepuscular in nature, the preponderance of the evidence suggests that most can be codified into two main categories -- diurnal and nocturnal.
The diurnally active frolic and gambol about the forest by day camouflaged among the fronds of ferns, and in the shadows of mushrooms and toadstools. On the other end of the spectrum, those with nocturnal habits hide themselves by day, and emerge only after dusk has settled to revel in the moonlight. Protected by Mother Darkness, clutching captured moonbeams to light their way, these liminal creatures flit and caper about the forest until evening deepens. At which point, they secretively congregate by the light of clusters of bioluminescent glowworm larvae to sing and dance about in circles. Though barely discernible amid the euphonious concerto of stridulating crickets and the ancillary chorus of male frogs issuing their goitred calls, the strains of their ancient canorous melodies carry far on the wings of the night wind.
Some of the unnatural creatures are thought to be playful and at worst mischievous. Some are believed to be beneficent, and to bring good luck to men. Others are rumoured to be impelled by sinister forces, to cast wicked spells and even to invade and torture the dreams of unfortunate souls. Some are suspected of purloining sleeping babes before they have been Christened, leaving monstrous changelings in their cribs. The evil entities to which we refer are thought to work their dark sorcery during the dead of night while the moon is high, and then vanish before the morning mist is lifted.
It is also whispered that there are even more abominable, more diabolical, nameless creatures, cryptids unknown to science, who, having assumed the form of mice, creep into the Church and hide in the dark corners of the confessional; hoping to overhear evil deeds, the details of which can be used against sincere and unsuspecting penitents for the perpetration of scapegoating, blackmail and ruination.
If indeed such storied creatures share our world and only a fraction of what is claimed about them is credible, theirs is an existence quite wondrous and distinct from our prosaic reality. Do some possess the wherewithal to traverse the forbidden gulf that separates the chthonic world from our own? Whether such claims are true or merely the stuff of myths, suffice it to say our chronicle unfolds during an age long past, in the dark foreboding woods of Ewing Forest, long steeped in legend and oneiric mystery.