The Old Woman & Dan 12


The Old Woman Appears: Illustration for Thomas the Rhymer (Donata Zawadzka)


Extract from Thomas the Rhymer

Chapter 1: Thursday’s Child

By the hill in the park, Jack saw an old woman waylaid Dan. She looked filthy dirty and was dressed like a tramp. He wondered if she was begging. When she started stroking Dan’s face and called him Thomas, Jack could not believe Dan just stood there and let her!

Horrified when she suddenly kissed his brother full on the lips, Jack could take no more. He burst out of hiding, shouting at her to get away and leave Dan alone. Freezing Jack with a stare, the old woman shimmered as if going out of focus. In her place a beautiful lady stood willowy, pale and radiant as a princess.

With tangled golden curls sparkling in the watery sunset, she playfully wagged a finger at Jack. In a low musical voice, sounding cosy as a secret shared, she cooed: “Frère Jacques, frère Jacques. Not today, but I will come back! I promise when your day comes, together we will have such fun. Until then silence learn, a kiss sweet Jacques ‘til I return!”

Blowing Jack a kiss which stung like a smack on the mouth, the beautiful lady took Dan’s hand and they vanished. There was no lightning flash or thunderclap. They were simply gone – like they were never there at all.

Dan and the Old Woman by Dona Zawadzka

You can read about how Dona and I started working together in the Birch Maiden on Sally Cronin’s Fantastic Blog Smorgasboard Variety is the Spice of Life. Click here & the link  is repeated below.

Dan and the Old Woman was the first drawing Dona did for Thomas the Rhymer. I was shocked when I first saw it. Don’t get me wrong. I loved it but I was shocked.

Dona saw something I had not consciously considered, a continuous link back to primal fairy stories, pre-dating Charles Perrault’s ‘Tales of Mother Goose’- the archetypal tales we all grew up with; retold so skillfully by Disney.

It was quite ironic really because what attracted me to her work was her modern updating of the great classic illustrators of those very stories: Crane, Snicket and Rackham.

Dona’s old woman is Baba Jaga, the ambiguous witch central to Slavic Fairy Stories. A powerful being who may help or hinder on a whim. She and her sisters represent  the Norns, or Fates, responsible for allocating the length of a person’s life and how the thread is spun into the World tapestry.  Clever of Dona, for in Thomas the Rhymer fairy queens spin their memories into a tapestry to be read by their successors.

Once I had digested everything Dona’s work revealed, I admit I went back and worked through Thomas the Rhymer;  unashamed to draw on the rich tradition of fairy stories and folk tales to embellish the plot and add layers of depth.  This is what an artist can do for you as a writer.

Before I go I would like to mention the music in the short video advert.  It was composed by a good friend and brilliant composer Patrick Hartnett, sadly we lost touch. I have number of his musical pieces hidden in the website. Contact me through Jack Hughes books and I will send a link. His work is also remarkable.

Don”t forget to download your free copy of Thomas the Rhymer – instructions below.


This post celebrates the work of Donata Zawadzka.

6 years ago, after falling in love with her work on the internet, I cheekily asked Dona if she would mind doing some illustrations for Thomas the Rhymer. She agreed, but only if she liked the book. Fortunately for me she did!

Although she has many styles I fell in love with her delicate black and white line drawings reminiscent of the classic Victorian illustrators such as Charles Snickett, Walter Crane and of course the great Arthur Rackham.

Please check out her website

Buy her work

Like Dona on Facebook

Follow her on Twitter


Read the Birch Maiden on Sally Cronin’s must read blog for writers and readers alike!

Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

Another fantastic illustration by Dona telling an old Scottish folk tale.

See the full illustration here….

The Birch Maiden:


Follow the Story of Thomas the Rhymer on the lavishly illustrated website

Download a free e-book of the full novel:

12 thoughts on “The Old Woman & Dan

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  3. Reply Shehanne Moore Mar 6,2017 2:38 pm

    You know your work is amazing. Just had a wee peek at more. Defo my kind of blog x

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  5. Reply Donata Zawadzka Feb 27,2017 6:29 pm

    I’m glad you like it too Sally! I have to thank both of you too! D x

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  7. Reply Donata Zawadzka Feb 22,2017 10:05 am

    I absolutely love Thomas the Rhymer story, it’s a delight for the artist to be able to Contribute and drew from abundance of details so cleverly constructed to reveal the complete world where supernatural meets ordinary! No words to describe, it’s a fantastic adventure to be part of the writer’s universe, and be accepted with your vision of it! Thank you Paul, I hope we will continue this adventure together! Best wishes, Don x

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  9. Reply Sally cronin Feb 12,2017 8:32 am

    Another great post Paul and love the illustrations of course.. Thanks for mentioning the short story and will put a link to this post on Donata’s entry in author services.. thank you both.

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