Muses vol. 2: John Bauer

Lately I’ve been touching a little on my interest in Swedish and Norwegian folk and fairy tales. My dad comes from a half-Swedish half-Norwegian family and when visiting my grandparents’ house, there was always Swedish memorabilia around. Figurines, dala horses, old books, old clothes, troll-themed stuff. I didn’t have much interest in it then, but as an adult I find that I get into it more and more.

One of my big interests is 19th century Swedish fairy tale and children’s book illustrators. And when you think of Swedish fairy tale illustrators, the big name is for sure John Bauer!

He was born in Jönköping in 1882 and grew up above a sausage store (nice digs!) that was run by his father. At 16 years old, he went off to Stockholm to study art at the Royal Swedish Academy of the Arts.


At school he met the woman who would soon become his wife and model for many of his paintings!

As you can see, princesses and trolls and forests are a very common theme in the fairy tales he illustrated! I love that the subjects of the illustrations always give the feeling of being small against the huge but serene world! So dreamy!

He was always plagued with doubts and depression and his marriage was on the verge of falling apart. He had hoped to move back to Stockholm and start his life anew with his wife and child. There had been a hugely disastrous train crash that spooked him and prompted him to take a ferry to Stockholm instead. Unfortunately, the chosen ferry wrecked, killing him and his family.

Despite his early death, he’s become quite the famous illustrator and continues to inspire the imaginations of children and he young at heart everywhere! I’m hoping that Disney’s Frozen will spark interest in Scandinavian and Nordic folklore (Frozen was based off of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen).

I’m going to be showcasing a few more fairy tale illustrators here from time to time, if it’s at all interesting to y’all! And if you’d like to purchase a book with Bauer’s illustrations, look no further than this 235-page book of Swedish Folk Tales!



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