A Small House Gallery project for the Whitstable Biennale Satellite.
During the Biennale, I am telling a Grimm Fairytale, using textile dolls/puppets
and photography and animation and whatever is to hand, to illustrate the
story, with each of the Small House Cottage rooms marking a chapter. The
Chapters will be added from 11 to 19th June 2022, and shared here and on
social media. The dolls house itself has come on summer tour to Whitstable,
where it will reside in my front room visible from the street for the Biennale
Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…
In which we meet the sisters…
The three sisters led a secluded life at the edge of the forest. They tended
their herbs and befriended wild animals in preference to the people of the
The townfolk in turn let them be. The towns’ women tending to consult the
sisters when necessary under the cloak of darkness.
Stories of the sisters’ charms spread far and wide. A beggar soon comes to call.
The eldest sister, kind hearted and forgetful invited the beggar indoors on
hearing his plea for a crust of bread.
Once across the threshold the beggar wastes no time. He grabs the girl and
bundled her into his trunk. And then, a quick as a flash, they are gone.
The Sister awoke confused, trancelike. She had been enchanted.
The Beggar was a Hexenmeister, a sorcerer. A sorcerer of the worst kind:
thief, a liar, a cheat. He wanted a wife, a true and skilled bride. For that he
needed to use all of his considerable cunning and trickery.
He gives her an egg that she must never set down and a key that she must
not use, and leaves her alone in the house.
The hexed Sister explores her surroundings.
Carefully and unquestionably cradling the egg, the girl roams around the
house. She admires the richness of the rooms and the treasures within,
wondering ever so slightly as the haphazard nature of it all.
Eventually she comes to a locked door. Without thinking, she fits the key to
the forbidden lock.
The beggar returned to the house at the edge of the forest.
The second sister is kidnapped swiftly and easily. She had been picking flowers
and thinking about her elder sibling, and missing her, and had not seen him
Again , after a few days, he says he has business to attend to elsewhere and
leaves her alone in the house with an egg and a key. Never set down the egg,
he tells her. Never use the key.
The second sister explores the house, admiring the richness of the rooms and
the treasures within. Eventually she reaches the locked room. She used the
key, opens the door and screams, dropping the egg.
The crash of the breaking shell shakes the house and the beggar returns.
Chapter 6, Part 1
The Beggar returns once more to the house of the 3 sisters.
The youngest sister is harder to kidnap. She has mysteriously lost two sisters, and her trusting nature alongside. She’s suspicious. She will not invite him in, and his spells cannot cross the threshold. Eventually he persuades her to open the window to pass him some bread.
He grabs her hand. She kicks and fights, but he has hold of her and soon enough she is in the trunk, and then to the dark house.
This sister is perhaps not as pretty. Her dress more patched. She has pockets. In her pockets she has all kinds of stuff: string, a needle book, wax, matches, crumbs for the birds, leaves for the deer.
The Beggar Groom can change all that with a click of his fingers, but later, he thinks, after her test. No point wasting good bad magic.
Before long, she is alone in the house with the egg and the key. The trance has not taken complete hold of this sister, she twists those leaves in her pocket. They are mugwort, a powerful herb of protection, sacred to the moon goddess Artemis. She bides her time.
Chapter 6, Part 2
The third sister doesn’t move for some time. She waits to be sure she can hear nothing, then begins to explore the house. She looks but does not admire. She wanders and she wonders “what goes on here?”
She empties one of her capacious pockets and pops the egg inside for safety. She stares at the locked door, takes a deep breath and turns the key.
She is greeted by a gruesome sight:
Blood everywhere! Splattered up the walls, puddled on the floor, and in the centre of the bloody chamber, a large bowl thick with more blood and decapitated bodies. Women’s bodies. Her sisterss bodies. She recognises the scar on an ankle where her eldest sister freed a trapped wolf and it bit her for thanks.
She lovingly collects the sum of her sisters, removing her own frock to avoid more blood splatters, and sets to work with her needle and string. As she sews, her sisters’ severed limbs help too, and the bodies begin to heal themselves.
Not all magic is bad magic.
She agrees but insists a dowry be taken to her sisters. A trunk of riches.
He laughs, “of course”. He knows where her sisters are really. He’ll take the trunk and fetch it back later. He’ll humour his bride, enjoying her bossy fussing. Refreshing as everyone is usually terrified around him.
He lifts the trunk and makes ready to depart when she asks for one more thing. He frowns but obliges.
She swaps the trunk for the with her sisters inside.
… and then what happens?!
(We’re on the edge of our seats!)
The next instalments will be added as they come in… there are to be 14 chapters in all!
If you simply can’t wait that long, go to Annie’s blog or instagram for instant access to the latest chapters, the minute she posts
And you can also see the show in Annie’s front window during the Whitstable Biennale Satellite and beyond…
(Unfortunately Small House Gallery isn’t credited in that listing so the context is a little vague in the guide, but we’re assured it’s to be remedied, online at least, soon… after which this comment will be duly removed)
Annie’s proposal for Small House Gallery reads thus:
“Whitstable Mermaid Lady
“At first I thought of making an Alice doll that would fit in the Small House. A large Alice – or rather an Alice that had become stuck in Mr Rabbit’s house. Then I began to think of fairy stories that involved rooms, and in particular Forbidden Chambers.
Everyone knows of Bluebeard, but there is also the White Dove, and my favourite, Fitchers Vogel or Fitcher’s Bird.
“In this tale, a beggar thief/sorcerer entraps 3 sisters, one at a time, and leaves them with an egg to take care of, and a key they must not use. The first sister uses the key and opens the forbidden chamber, a blood filled room with body parts. Horrified, she drops the egg. When the Thief returns, he chops her up and adds her to the pile. The same happens with the second sister. With the third, she pops the egg in the cupboard for safety before she goes into the forbidden chamber. There she sees her sisters’ dismembered body parts, which she gathers and puts back together.
“When the Thief returns and finds the egg safe, he says he will marry the girl. She agrees, but only if he takes a trunk of gold to her parents while she arranges the wedding. In the trunk she has already hidden her sisters. She places a skull encrusted with jewels in the window, and tells the Thief she can see him all the way. Then she rolls herself in honey and feathers, and escapes, looking like a funny bird.
When the Thief and all his friends are back in the house, for he is convinced the skull is her watching him, her family lock them in and burn it down.
“Now obviously there will be no burning of the Small House, but I would rather like to interpret this tale through small stitched dolls and large keys and an egg and dismembered textile tiny body parts. Or not so tiny.
“The Beggar Thief would stand outside; one room would have keys and eggs, one the blood bath, another the skull. Some pieces would perhaps be paper cut out figures, others textile.”