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Artist's Notes
The Huron Carol Book
THE HURON CAROL by Father Jean de Brebeuf (1593-1649)
A 32-page picture book, illustrated by Frances Tyrrell.
Each year at Christmas the beautiful melody and memorable lyrics of The Huron Carol sound in churches of all denominations around the world.

"The Huron Carol" was created by Jean de Brebeuf, missionary to the Huron nation, some three hundred and fifty years ago. In it he described the Nativity in terms relevant to the native peoples. Thus, the three kings from the east bringing costly gifts were replaced by "Chiefs from far" with with gifts of fox and beaver pelt. The Bethlehem shepherds became "wondering hunters" and the humble Bethlehem stable "a lodge of broken bark".

The essential message - of the miracle and promise of new life and new hope in the midst of dark and bitter winter - was very acceptable to the Huron people, and is one we can all share to-day.

It was so accepable that, even after Jean de Brebeuf's death at the hands of the rival Iroquois, the destruction of the Ste. Marie settlement, and the dispersal of the remaining Huron people, they still celebrated the nativity each winter and kept the carol alive through the oral tradition. It was translated into French about one hundred years later, and into English in 1926.

Bird image.
Bird image
Frances Tyrrell feels that she was very privileged to have the opportunity to illustrate this carol, a historic meeting of two cultures. She undertook the extensive research to make the book as accurate as possible, and with luminous beauty has recreated the Huron clothing and the tender figures of the mother and child. The chiefs who came from afar are represented by the Sioux from the Plains, the Kootenay from the Pacific coast, and the Woodland Shawnee.
This richly illustrated 32 page book includes the music for The Huron Carol, the only surviving verse in the old Huron language, and two verses from the eighteenth century French translation. It is currently published by Key Porter Books in Canada and by Eerdmans in the U.S.A. "The Huron Carol" can be ordered directly from this web site, signed by Frances Tyrrell.

In 1990 The Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendate Nation, Max Gros-Louis, wrote, "To-day there are over 2,000 people living on our reserve at the heart of Quebec City. This nation is a dynamic one. We operate schools, a bank, a radio station, and our own justice system. We are pleased that this book tells a part of our common history."

Indian child image
Artist's Notes
The Huron Carol was brought to my attention by my mother. It was taught to her by a Sunday School teacher in a much bombed suburb of London, England during World War II. Forty years later, in Canada, she asked me to create a Christmas card for her based on this carol. She liked the finished picture so much, a pen and ink rendering of the "Chiefs from Far", that she took it to a local printer and then sold it to local stores.
One of the cards found its way to the children's book editor at a Toronto publishing house. She contacted me and asked if I would like to create a 32 page book about the The Huron Carol. This unique project, still my favourite, was under way. It was a joy to work on this moving and spiritual carol, which is loved today by peoples around the world. I had full artistic and interpretive freedom, with only minimal editorial input.
Bird image.
A well qualified and motivated anthropologist friend swamped me with the historical and cultural information I needed to provide an authentic background to every picture. I visited Ste. Marie among the Huron, a recreated historical site at Midland, Ontario. Reading historian Bruce Trigger on the Huron, Algonquin and Iroquois, I was touched by their gentleness and respect towards their own children and their peaceful lives within their own communities.
The compositions and sketches fell naturally into place, as if they had been waiting for the opportunity. I think every painting was completed in the small hours of the morning, the magic hours for many creative people.

The faces of the chiefs were among the most moving to construct and complete. I had the responsibility to be true to type, without stereotype, to show ordinary human beings at their best, encountering the divine. This carol was created for children and so was this book, but adults who have kept their childhood visions will enjoy the deeper symbolism that is in the pictures.

Cradleboard image
"The Huron Carol" is about North America's first people and culture, but it is also about the nativity. "He pitched His dwelling among us." In both repects it is a story to be told with dignity and joy.
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Huron Carol greeting cards
The Huron Carol book
The artwork contained in this web site is protected by copyright and may not be copied, duplicated or reproduced in print, electronically or in any other way without the written permission of Frances Tyrrell.