Henry Justice Ford is best known for his illustrations of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (1889-1901), which were heavily influenced by Walter Crane and Edward Burne-Jones. Lang's 25 collections of fairy tales and myths came from across the world, and many were translated by his team into English for the first time. Some cite their origins in the prefaces, whilst others are edited to be more suitable for children until they are almost unrecognisable from the original source.
This drawing is for The Olive Fairy Book (1907) and illustrates The Blue Parrot, taken from Le cabinet des fées, 41 volumes of fairy tales published in Paris in the 1780s and regarded as the greatest collection of fairy tales of its time. In The Blue Parrot, King Lino, who has recently come to rule a small Arabian kingdom, falls in love with an image of Princess Hermosa, daughter of the Swan Fairy who rules the neighbouring realm. He sets off to woo her, but his interest is discovered by a nearby magician and King of the Isle of Lions, Ismenor, whose daughter Riquette has also fallen in love with King Lino. Ismenor determines to thwart Lino's interest and ensure that he marries his own daughter, and swaps his groom and Lino's bodies, so that the groom sets off to the Isle of Swans, where he is incredibly rude to Hermosa, raising her mother's suspicions.
The Swan Fairy takes out an enchanted mirror which allows the viewer to see the truth of a person, and sees that Lino is imprisoned in Ismenor's castle, while the man who appears to be him is in fact the magician's groom. This drawing depicts this moment, as she shows Hermosa what has happened to her prince. The Swan Fairy plots Lino's escape, but Ismenor finds out, and turns her to marble, Lino into a blue parrot, and Hermosa into a tree in the forest. They live like this for several years until Lino as the parrot befriends the wife of a wizard who is intrigued and eventually discovers what has happened. He sets about reversing the spells, and Lino and Hermosa are finally reunited.