It seems I made these pictures in opposite order, but here is the first page to the story of Hans-My-Hedgehog. In many renditions I've seen, the images equate the childlessness of the farmer and his wife with age. They are well past middle aged when Hans comes into their lives. The poverty also seems extreme, though the Grimm story says he had money and land enough. But despite what we see, I do not think that the lives of the farmer and his wife are empty and harsh, only filled with the ache of no child. There's more to the story than that.
The farmer laments that he has no son to work the land with him, to go to the fairs and haggle with merchants, or to learn his trade. The wife grieves for other reasons: the thought of the future, different than what she hoped; the remarks of the village wives when another season passes with no child; the surreptitious, judgmental glances at her still-flat belly and whispers of unwanted advice. The loneliness of it all in the small hours, once her husband has gone to sleep. But to me, that still does not have to add up to unhappiness. So I tried to show here a life without that is still rich: warm sun on the crops, the livestock to feed, a bountiful harvest, and the joy of laboring together toward a single goal. The strength to accept what life withholds while finding contentment in the small, beautiful things that life offers.
"The Farmer and his Wife" from Hans-My-Hedgehog. Copyright 2015 Jessica Boehman. Colored pencil, pencil, and gouache. Please do not reproduce without permission.