"Oh Ghastly You with Lips of Blue," William Steig, 1990.

"Oh Ghastly You with Lips of Blue," William Steig, 1990. ©1990 William Steig. All rights reserved. From the permanent collection of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, gift of Jeanne Steig.

The ugly truth behind William Steig’s famous green ogre is that his name is derived from the Yiddish word “shreck,” which means “fear or terror.”

Shrek made his debut in Steig’s unusual 1990 illustrated picture of the same title. The character derives nothing but pleasure from being truly nasty; after being kicked out of a black hole in which he hatched, Shrek slogs off on a quest to find the most stunningly ugly princess he can find. This hideous tale went on to inspire three major motion pictures and a Broadway musical.

Known for his New Yorker cartoons and illustrations, William Steig found a later career as a children’s book artist, creating such tales as the Caldecott Award-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (1969); The Amazing Bone (1976); and the Newbery Award-winning Doctor De Soto (1982).

Don’t miss William Steig: Love & Laughter, on view at Norman Rockwell Museum through October 31, 2010. Original Shrek! illustrations are on loan courtesy of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Read the book that started it all! Pick up a copy of in Norman Rockwell Museum’s online store

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