A long time ago, a former Boyfriend gave me a book tape of the story The White Deer by James Thurber. Thurber was a great humorist, and the story is hilarious and poignant.
It's about a king and his three sons who go hunting in an enchanted forest, chasing a beautiful white deer. When they bring it to bay, it transforms into a princess. But the lovely lady doesn't know her name, so they can't bring her to her father's kingdom and they don't know what to do with her. Eventually the king orders her to send his sons each on a perilous labour, and the first to return would marry her. (The exact words are "Nothing like marriage to bring a woman to her senses!)
Throughout the story all the characters are trying to figure out who the lady is, and one of them tells a story about a true deer who happened upon a wizard who had tumbled into a stream and saved his life. In return for this good deed, the wizard had given the deer the power to change into a maiden in the event that it was hotly pressed. This particular deer did just that, and asked the wizard how it could remain a woman. The wizard had given her the power to remain a woman until such time as love had failed her thrice, whereupon she would resume her true form, come what may.
Eventually everybody in the story comes to believe that this is exactly what has happened to their lady - that she is not actually a princess, but an actual deer of the woods.
It's not true, but I don't want to spoil it any more! Suffice it to say there is quite a twist in the tale and a happy and surprising ending.
I have loved this story for years and played it to anyone who was willing to sit through a book tape. It's about three hours long in all - like a rather long movie - but very few people are willing to sit still and listen for that length of time. I love long movies, and long stories, and I love sitting still and listening to beautiful things, so I play this tale over and over. It's actually perfect for a drive to Ottawa or Toronto, but I digress.
That's when I decided to make him this quilt. It is quilted with my favourite lines from the story and some imagery as well.
Here is the white deer at the moment she transforms. Look very carefully and you will see the writing along the edge of the mountain "By night and day the White Deer shines, betwixt the Mountain and the Mines."
So yes, I sewed each and every one of those letters in separately. Ugh! But that wasn't the hardest part!
That's thread-painting folks. "In such confusion and caprice, who knows his hound-dog from his neice?" That must have taken me three weeks alone!
You can see the reverse-appliqué stars under that text.
There's the castle - isn't it simply delightful? It's all wobbly and silly - just like the characters in the story!
Here we see "Scribendum Est," one of the rules of the kingdom. It means a thing must be written down in order to exist. After my many years in a service facility, I laugh every time I hear that phrase, when I think of how people have to fill out forms! If it's not written down, it don't exist!
Beneath that you see the barking tree. Remember, we're in an enchanted forest! There are a few phrases showing here, or showing partially. Prince Jorn's rhyme shows on either side of the barking tree: "What's black is white, What's red is blue; What's dark is light, What's true is true."
And a part of a hilarious line shows under the tree. It's the king complaining after the deer has transformed, and the full line is "Swing her to your saddle, Jorn, and we will serve her at our table in another way than I had hoped!"
This is the seven-headed dragon of Dragor! Yes, they are machine appliquéd. Seven of them. Took ages! Prince Gallo's comment shows partially on the right "I tell you the dragon has to be wound up - with a great big key!" Oh, and notice the deer tracks meandering beneath the dragon.
This is a sundial and its happy legend. The character of Taco, who told the bleak tale that the lady was nothing more than a deer of the woods, keeps writing dark rhymes for his sundials because he's nearly blind. But at the happy end of the story he finally creates a happy verse: "As slow as time, as long as love, the Rose, the Fountain, and the Dove."
And finally, the chalice filled with a thousand rubies, that Prince Jorn presents to the princess, with his declaration of love, "You hold my heart."
I call the quilt "In Spite of Dread and Doubt and Tattle-tale" because I want to tell my former Boyfriend to cling to hope. Yes, the cancer metastasized, and yes he had to endure a year of chemo.
But I am pleased to report that in his recent spate of tests, it so happens that the cancer has not grown this year. So, in spite of dread and doubt and all the things people say about cancer, he has a little more hope this year than he did last year.
So his expiry date has been moved back, and he will have time to enjoy his quilt.
I plan to have the quilt registered. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, and I'm pretty sure people will have a hard time knowing how to classify it. After all, "art" quilts aren't usually so structured. But I think of it as art.