Optimism in a World of Inner Contradictions
By Huang Yi-Wen ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
Jan 16, 2024

When I wrote my previous picture books, I started by making sure I had a clear layout of how the story would begin and end, then I got to work on illustrating the page that I was most excited about drawing. However, this was definitely not the case with The Prince Who Hated Green Caterpillars. Even though I’d already mapped out the plot, I wasn’t sure about the characters’ inner thoughts or how the story would end, so I couldn’t skip around when working on the illustrations and I had to work through the book in order, starting with the first page and finishing with the last. That continuity made it easier to get into the world of the story, but I was still hesitant about sketching the characters’ expressions right up until I drew the final line.

Not having a fixed plan was a new creative approach for me. From the moment I first came up with the story, I didn’t try to find a clear-cut resolution to it, instead I tried to create a defined space where contradictions such as virtue and vice, kindness and ignorance, love and hate, salvation and persecution etc. could all coexist. Rather than keeping these opposing elements at a safe distance from each other in the story, they were all combined into one person. I was curious about whether it was possible that the good and evil could exist at the same time rather than hiding from each other like day and night, and what might happen if they collided together. I wanted to design a moment after which everything would change, and that was the original intention behind this picture book.

What happens after these collisions? When we grow up, we realize there are a lot of questions in life that don’t have answers. Can we understand each other even if our circumstances are different? Can we repair the damage we’ve caused? If this story needs a specific resolution, I hope that it’s one of love, that it’s a cheesy fairy-tale about how “from now on, we’ll all live happily ever after.” So, by the end of the story, in the prince’s mind the best kingdom isn’t the one without the color green, it’s the kingdom that he promised to the girl.