Babes in the Wood (1898)

Benjamin Haughton’s Babes in the Wood (oil on canvas, 1898) was painted in the Kent countryside near Cranbrook. Many of Haughton's woodland scenes are sketchy but this painting is carefully composed and highly finished. In the centre are two small children, one in red and the other in blue, like figures in a fairy tale. Typically for Haughton, the view point is low with only trunks and lower branches visible.

Wikipedia neatly offers a summary of the various Babes in the Wood stories, which is an old English morality tale:

The story tells of two small children left in the care of an uncle and aunt after their parents' death. The uncle gives the children to ruffians to be killed, in order to acquire their inheritance, telling his wife they are being sent to London for their upbringing. The murderers fall out, and the milder of the two kills the other. He tells the children he will return with provisions, but they do not see him again. The children wander alone in the woods until they die; their bodies are covered with leaves by the birds.

Not the happiest of endings, which is why the modern pantomimes tend to jolly it up. Yet the tale seems to be a distant echo of Adam’s Fall. Alone in the garden, the child-like heirs are subtly ambushed and deprived of their inheritance by a fellow creature feigning benevolence and wisdom. By this event they die, cut off from their Father. Of course, there are major differences between the two. In the Biblical narrative, their progenitor dies, not before their getting lost, but afterwards, in order to bring them back. Those who believe in Him do not remain buried in the soil, but rise again.

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.
I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.

I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;
Faint was I from many a fall;
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.
Days of darkness still come o'er me,
Sorrow's paths I often tread,
But the Savior still is with me;
By His hand I'm safely led.

He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He'll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.
Yes, I'll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

-F.H. Roelrey, 1886