The Hermit and the Kettle

“The Hermit and the Kettle” is one of many stories my father created during my childhood. I have vivid memories of him sitting on the edge of my bed recounting the tale, pretending to forget certain parts so that my four-year-old self could interject and partake of the storytelling.

As a child, “The Hermit and the Kettle” was just one of a multitude of stories my father told for my enjoyment. Now, looking back, I realize how applicable it was to his situation. The hermit, who gives up his job in the city and moves back into the forest, parallels what I believe my father secretly wished to do ever since he did just the opposite after I was born.

My dad was determined to set the stories he made up for me down on paper before we had both forgotten them. He wrote out what he remembered, and I supplemented with my childhood memories and mental images of how I remembered the story. For an art class in college, we were given the opportunity to do a project of our choice, and I decided it was time to make my dad’s book into a reality.

When illustrating this story, I kept various factors in mind. As a child, the story was never written down for me to read on my own. I relied on my imagination to supply the images, and since the plot changed slightly with every telling, so too did the pictures in my mind. Recreating a finite version was no easy task for that reason. I was not interested in depicting the story merely for children; instead, I wanted to draw upon the harsh line quality of nature sketches and animal reference books. I tried to present the images as suggestions to let the imagination build upon rather than finite images of the plot.  I wanted to illustrate only a few moments in the storyline, but most importantly it was the details that I wanted to include, not the focal points. It was important that the images be supplements to the story itself, not the other way around. Therefore, while each drawing refers to something specific in the text, few of the images tell a story on their own. I think the final images have a certain rugged quality to them; even the initial illustration of the hermit alone in his city apartment feels more like the interior of a cabin than it does metropolitan housing.

The story also applies to both a child’s morals of sharing and friendship as well as the adult sentiments of cultural boredom, insatiability and the need to return to nature.  There is a sense of fantasy that appears in the kettle which is never empty; something I was always amazed by as a child. In this rendition, I believe I have conveyed a slightly more adult approach to the themes mentioned, which seems appropriate given my intimate history with the story.


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