Are you tired of the same ‘ol fairy tales? Do you want a break from the beanstalks, knights, and glass slippers? Then do I have a book for you! From Laurie Piña and Burn All Books comes The Maiden and the Mole. This title was inspired in part by the book Scandinavian Folk & Fairy Tales: Tales From Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland & Iceland (now THAT is a long title). This feels like a minicomic working as a storybook, using panels and balloons but also relying on blocks of text (unboxed) to provide most of the story/narration. Let’s get into it.
A young nymph lives with her sisters among nature. Every day they explore their natural surroundings, gather cuttings… and are suspicious of moles. While gathering said cuttings one day, the nymph comes across a mole who is simply starving. Our lead nymph, not knowing these mole concerns, abides his request, but when her fellow nymphs learn about her charity they explain that moles bring nothing but destruction and just want to drag her into a hole for a quick meal. Suffice it to say, our main nymph doesn’t listen and continues to foster a relationship with her new subterranean acquaintance (here’s a teaser, it’s slightly NSFW). Now, I don’t want to spoil anything and won’t but I will say this isn’t the cautionary tale it may appear to be.
Laurie’s art in this book further feeds in to the whimsy and storybook style between the covers, as does the risograph printing (green and pink on the inside). The nymphs are drawn to look like the tiny, beautiful creatures they are classically described to be, and in the spirit of the nature they inhabit they themselves don’t don clothes. In fact, the only material possessions that they apear to own is the basket that they use to collect flowers. Also like what you may have read about nymphs, this gang isn’t without it’s mischievous behavior, though we see different sides to that mischief in our main nymph as opposed to those against the mole. The mole itself is… well… a mole, not much to report. I mentioned it briefly but there is some implied sexploration in Maiden and the Mole, however it is done in a way that doesn’t show anything and doesn’t break the storybook atmosphere.
The Maiden and the Mole was a great read. It was equal parts light and foreboding, and the way things turn out is really something. I think it’s also important to point out how much research Laurie underwent in producing this book. When I bought this mini it came with a “behind the scenes” zine that explains a bit about Laurie’s process, as well as what went into her pacing/tone (which is directly inspired by the long titled tome in the first paragraph). This is a cautionary tale, but not the one you think it is. Now unfortunately this book is no longer available, it was only printed in 150 copies originally. That being said, you can see other titles that have been available and buy Laurie’s title Intermezzo here. You can also see her art on her website (see P1) and Instagram as well as a neat mix she assembled recently (with her art as a cover) here.