What do you do when you see lines everywhere and you have no one to talk to about it?
The picture book Strikurnar (“The Lines”, not published in English) is about two best friends walking home from school. They don’t have to say much. They understand each other and know that everything is alright. The connection between them is clear in both the text and the image. With both feet, they step over the lines in the road – which later turn out to be the first person’s problem: the lines and their terror of crossing them.
This fear of the lines is triggered when Grandpa dies and the boy doesn’t feel he’s part of the community of grieving adults. The adults’ powerlessness in the child’s difficult situation is illustrated in contrasts, where the adults stand as black shadows, with a blanket of tears in the background. The boy stands in bright colours in the forefront of the picture: lonely, worried, and on the outside. It’s now that he begins to see the lines – everywhere – and he gets more and more caught up in the idea of having to do the right thing. The lines, which on the first spread harmlessly separate the cobbles on the road, are by the middle of the book depicted as the beast first encountered on the dark, terrifying cover. The boy, now shown only from behind, is almost seized by the claws and jaws of the great beast embodied by the lines.
The boy himself expresses the difficulty of having to put his obsessions into words. He knows they’re disproportionate but he’s unable to change his behaviour. With the lines he’s on his own, and his friend no longer understands him. It’s a situation where he learns what it’s like when your friend suddenly can’t bear to be around you any more. He understands why but he can’t do anything about it. The lines have taken over. The boy is also convinced his mother won’t understand, so he doesn’t share his thoughts with her either. But even if she doesn’t know what’s wrong with her son, she, as the adult carer, knows this is a situation in which she must intervene. They eat waffles, go for walks, catch fish and crabs, and the boy forgets about the lines. Through human contact and social interaction, he acquires coping strategies that enable him to forget the ubiquitous lines.
The precise and concrete use of language all but writes its audience out of this text, which nevertheless manages to involve every reader and makes Strikurnar a timeless and universal articulation of our human need to master the difficulties in our lives. It deals with a serious subject and doesn’t trivialise it, but it shows solutions and hope in otherwise difficult and hopeless situations. The lines were there in the beginning, and they’re still there. This is beautifully illustrated on the endsheets, which are the same at the end as in the beginning – greyish, dark, and with lines – but the difference is that when you get to the end, bright and beautiful flowers are growing up through the dark lines.
Dánial Hoydal is a Faroese writer with an MA in rhetoric and informatics. Dánial Hoydal made his debut as a writer in 2002 with his picture book Í geyma, illustrated by Hanni Bjartalíð. Annika Øyrabø is a Faroese/Danish designer and illustrator. She studied at the Danish Design School and Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften in Hamburg.
In addition to Strikurnar, Dánial and Annika have also produced Abbi og eg og abbi (2021), which was nominated for the 2022 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize and won the 2022 West Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. It was also published in Danish as Bedste og mig og Bedste (2022).