The Feet in the Fire

The expressive collages done by picture book artist Jens Thiele have given the famous ballad The Feet in the Fire by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer almost a stage setting. Jens Thiele creates suggestive images from ripped photographs and scraps of coloured paper. The collages’ fragmentation and the variations of light and shade are perfectly in compliance with the weighty matter of the poem’s theme and open up a completely new approach to the interpretation of this classic poem.

The Feet in the Fire was first published in 1882. In a castle along his way, a courier to the King of France seeks shelter from a thunderstorm. By and by he realizes that he is a guest of a Huguenot family. What is more, he once tortured his host’s wife to death with his own hands in this very castle during a pogrom that was carried out against the Huguenots. Knowing that the nobleman and his children have recognized him, he spends an utterly uneasy night. But the next morning the nobleman rouses him from sleep and sends him off – unscathed …


Furiously flashes a bolt. In pallid light there stands a tower.

The thunder rumbles. A horseman fighting with his steed,

jumps off, pounds at the gate and clamours. His cloak is whizzing

in the wind. He holds the skittish sorrel by the reins.

A strait lattice window shimmers light as gold,

and creakingly the gate is opened by a nobleman …

„Farewell! Goodbye forever!” The other speaks:

You said it! Owned by the greatest King! This day

my duty due was hard … devilishly you slayed

My dear wife! And you are living …

Vengance is mine, saith the Lord.“

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Further information

  • Text by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer in the public domain.
  • All rights to the illustrations available.

Jens Thiele

Jens Thiele, born 1944 in Potsdam, studied graphic art and art and completed his studies with a Ph.D. He worked as a lecturer before becoming Professor for Visual Media at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg . He also functioned as Head of the Research Center for Literature for Children and Young Adults. In countless reviews he has taken a stand for the artistic picture book. Since 2009 he has been working as a freelance artist in his studio in Münster.

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