Book 21 – The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar

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Bit of a mixed bag this one. Always a sucker for a good fairy tale. I found this book a few months ago on a second hand stall at the Open Market in Brighton. It’s two books in one really. The first section, which takes up 260 of the 400-odd pages, is an anthology of the classic fairy and folk tales; Red Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Bluebeard, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel. Each tale type has an introduction by the editor and then (and this is the really cool bit) there is the text of each tale, as told by various authors or as collected from a number of cultures. So, for Red Riding Hood we have the versions by Perrault and Grimm of course, but also stories by James Thurber, Italo Calvino Chiang Mi and Roald Dahl. And the final two chapters of this section contain a small collection of stories by Hans Christian Anderson and then Oscar Wilde.

It’s a really great collection of stories and I had quite a bit of fun comparing all the versions of each type.

The end of the book contains a number of essays of criticism on fairy tales, there place in literature, their role in the development of the psyche and their function in pre-industrial and modern society. Some very distingished writers (Bettelheim, Warner, Rowe and Tatar to name a few) but it turns out I have very little interest in exploring the psychological significance of fairy tales. Life is just too short to examine the symbolic language of Mother Goose.

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