Monday, May 16, 2011

Theodor Kittelsen, trolls, and Moby-Dick

I finally found it again! First, look below...

That was my illustration for page 26 of Moby-Dick. The line I illustrated was ...and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the hand belonged, seemed closely seated by my bedside. Something about that mention of the "nameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom" reminded me of an image I had seen as a young boy in a book on fairy tales or fantastic creatures. And today, through a series of strange coincidences, I found that exact image again! It is a piece by the Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen and I believe it is titled either "Noekken" or "Nokken" or "The Water Troll" or maybe even "The Water Spirit." Here it is...

Amazing! I remember being almost terrified of that image when I was little. Even now, as a grown man, it still frightens me a bit. Something about that deep, dark water, the weedy head peeking just above the waterline, and those horrifyingly luminous eyes. It has stayed in my mind and haunted me for decades now. And eventually, that 19th century fantasy illustration from what was probably a book on trolls and giants fuelled a part of this Moby-Dick illustration project in 2009. Weird.


  1. What a beautiful and kind of terrifying image...I love these paired together!!

  2. I love the Tin House catalogue cover below! How do we get one?

    Had to get you this way, as can't find your e-mail. Callum Macdonald Award Ceremony at the National Library of Scotland last night, and Venti was the distinguished runner-up. So no Greece, but still an accolade! And lots of people asked me about you.

  3. Hannah, this image has really been haunting me for decades! Even now, discovering it again after so many years, I had this rush of familiar childhood terrors again. I guess I was just never really able to get it out of my brain, and it will probably stay with me until I die.

  4. Titus, thank you so much for the updates! I'm a bit sad Venti did not experience the ultimate triumph, but it is still a monumental achievement and your work deserves all the accolades and much more. Bravo to you!

    As for that catalogue, I suppose one could write to Tin House and ask. I'm not sure how they handle anything outside the US, but there is probably something they could do to send one your way. I've asked for one, but if they send me more than one I will be happy to mail it to you. I'll keep you posted.

  5. Hey, it was up against 43 of the best pamphlets in Scotland that year! Second is very cool. Bravo to you! What we working on next?

  6. Titus, I had no idea the competition was that broad. 43 poets is an astounding amount of talent. Even cooler that Venti placed where it did then!

    As to what I am working on next, all of that is in a blog post from my other blog right here.


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