“My focus was creating a mysterious and slightly sinister atmosphere”

In conversation with Carly Draws, creator of the new Grimm’s Fairy Tales cover for recovering the classics

Grimm’s fairy tales, first published in 1812 in German by brothers Jacob and Wilhelm has a significant place in children’s literature. The book was published with illustrations from German artists Philipp Grot Johann and Robert Leinweber. Multiple books and films have been influenced by these stories. As a part of recovering the classics project, today I’m delighted to share the behind the scene story from artist Carly Draws who has drawn a new cover for the children’s classic.

Why Grimm’s fairy tales?

It’s interesting to note that the Brothers Grimm had significantly toned down the original Grimm books to make them more child friendly in subsequent versions. They also added religious phrases to make the books more suited to middle class readers of that time. Yet, critics have often talked of the books as having too much violence for kids and having a sinister energy about them. On the other hand, some commentators have been keen on reviving original stories without really “dumbing them down” for any audience groups. Having said that, most children across the world have seen or heard some version of these folk tales during childhood. Carly shared her own childhood storytelling experiences as a reason behind her interest in designing this cover.

The Brothers Grimm — reimagined for Recovering the Classics
“I chose to design a new cover for Grimm’s fairy tales because it is a book that I remembered very well, having read it many times as a child. It has been a big influence on my work over the years, so I thought it would be fun to illustrate it, and pay tribute to it in my own way. There was also the challenge of designing something new and a bit different for a book that is so well-known.”

Pitch or Gold

Like most fables, Grimm’s fairy tales shared stories of simplistic endings with a moral at the end. They promote the belief that handwork pays off ‘good people’ in gold, while those who while their time away in ‘bad deeds’ get punished. There’s a distinct black-and-white division between the good and bad. Stories are set in dark forests with twists winding towards a happily ever after.

The entire Grimm’s tale is a set of 121 stories allowing for a great deal of powerful imagination. Carly shared her passion for choosing the “Tale of Mother Holle” as a design inspiration.

“Although there is lots of great imagery in the book in general- all those twisty trees and dark forests, I was really interested in the different imagery from the ‘Tale of Mother Holle’. It’s not a very long story, but there are lots of elements in it that I thought would make for an interesting cover, especially the contrast between the gold and pitch that is the end reward for the characters in the story.”

A visually contrasting inspiration

“With this cover, I initially designed two versions, one for each sister in the story- the one who is good and is rewarded with gold, and the one who is bad and is covered in pitch. I really wanted to play with the gold/black and having a kind of comparison between the two. I liked illustrating the contrast between the personalities and fates of the characters in the story. My original idea was to submit both designs, to have this kind of good/evil set. However, as I developed the covers, I thought that it would be a better solution and more visually strong to focus on one cover, and integrate elements of both designs into one image. I decided to focus on showing the central idea of contrast through the use of gold and pitch as the main colors of the cover, and having references to other parts of the story (the well, the feathers) without giving away too much of the plot.”

The design focuses on the power inside the well through the dark shades while also lending space to mellow golds and delicate feathers. Carly wanted to retain the mystique of Mother Holle’s mysterious abode and the different fates the sisters are faced with. While the stories are old, she enhances their timelessness through modern shapes.

“My main focus was on storytelling and creating a mysterious and perhaps slightly sinister atmosphere. I wanted to have a cover that combined modern graphic shapes with references to the traditional in the hand drawn type, and the painted areas for the golden dust.”

Looking at the design, almost made me want to immediately pick up the book for a re-read. Carly was also highly appreciative of the beauty of the tales and their relevance even in present times.

“Designing a cover for this book and re-reading the stories all over again has made me even more appreciative of how rich the tales are, and how embedded they are in the culture that I have grown up in.”

If you like this project and would like more people to know about it, don’t hesitate to hit ❤ at the end of the post !


Carly Draws is a freelance illustrator based in the UK. Her work is a combination of hand drawn elements, painted textures and graphic shapes.

Upasna Kakroo is a storytelling fellow for CAN’s ‘recovering the classics’ project. She’s also the co-founder of a business storytelling & branding firm, Brandanew, and in the process of writing a book on storytelling.

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