Archive for Big Readers A place for discussing books and all things bookish.
 

The free forums are now under new ownership, a full announcement will be made shortly

       Big Readers Forum Index -> Discuss children's books here.
Mikeharvey

Fairy Tales

Having heard Melvyn Bragg's excellent "In Our Time" about the Brothers Grimm I read "The Six Swans" which was referred to in the programme.  This lovely story is about the sister whose brothers are turned into swans. To undo the spell the sister has to sew each of them a shirt and must not speak or laugh for six years.  She manages the task except for one sleeve of the youngest brother's shirt and he, when he is transformed back to human shape, has a swan's wing instead of an arm.  There is also in this tale the inevitable wicked stepmother who, this being Grimm, is punished for her wickedness by being burned to death.  Why are so many of the evil characters in these tales women?  This tale also contains an episode where the sister, hiding up a tree, has to throw down articles of her clothing.  I suspect in other versions might be rather ribald.  I read this story in the beautiful Norton Annotated Grimm (ed Maria Tatar) with 150 illustrations by artists such as Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, George Cruikshank and others.
TheRejectAmidHair

I have a recent translation (by Jack Zipes, published by Vintage) of these stories, and they are fascinating. I haven't read all of them yet, and don't remember having read "The Six Swans" - I'll look that one up.
miranda

Quote:
Why are so many of the evil characters in these tales women?


To reinforce the idea that power isn't feminine and women who 'get above themselves' suffer for it.
county_lady

miranda wrote:
Quote:
Why are so many of the evil characters in these tales women?


To reinforce the idea that power isn't feminine and women who 'get above themselves' suffer for it.



And that's not at all. Men who are insecure are frightened of powerful and/or clever women. Wink
TheRejectAmidHair

Goodness! - what a doctrinaire lot you all are! Smile

I think it's more that, traditionally, women are associated with the gentler emotions and feelings; and so, an evil woman shocks all the more by appearing so incongruous. It's the same with the femme fatale in film noir. There are evil men in those films also, but it's the evil women who leave the deepest impressions - and not just with male viewers!
miranda

If you say so, Himadri......




Razz
lunababymoonchild

The Big Bad Wolf is male .................
Mikeharvey

Yesterday I read the last story in "1001 Nights" in the newly published complete translation by Malcom C Lyons & Ursula Lyons, (Penguin H/B 3 Vols). "Ma'ruf the Cobbler" is a longish tale all about a poor man with a termagant wife from whom he escapes. He has many adventures, becomes an outrageous confidence trickster and ends up as King and immensely wealthy.  Like all these Arabian Nights stories it develops and develops and develops and ends only when the original storyteller must have run out of ideas.  I was struck by the great  emphasis on material possessions. There are many descriptions of meals and clothes and palaces and incredible treasures.  There are Jinns and magic journeys and the wicked are punished - usually cruelly.  There are also very poetic descriptions of sexual intercourse.   It is all very satisfying.  And the story ends - and the whole cycle - and Sheherazade's invention - thus.  

They continued to enjoy the most prosperous, pleasant and enjoyable of lives until they were visited by the destroyer of delights, the parter of companions, the ravager of prosperous lands, who orphans children. Praise be to the Living God, Who never dies and in Whose hand are the keys of dominion and power."
Mikeharvey

I read two fairy tales by Charles Perrault (1628-1703) with which I was unfamiliar - 'Riquet of the Tuft' and 'Donkey-Skin'. The first is a moral tale in which an ugly prince, who is nevertheless very intelligent and has the power to bestow intelligence on others, falls in love with a beautiful, though stupid princess who has the power to bestow beauty on others. You can guess what happens. I suppose the moral is that love has the power to transform the beloved.
'Donkey Skin' is about a king who has a magic donkey that excretes jewels. The King wishes to marry his daughter who, to avoid this calamity, runs away wearing a skin made from the magic donkey. Of course she marries a handsome prince.  This story is told in delightful rhymed verse.  There is a  lovely film version with Catherine Deneuve.
I read these stories in a new translation of the Complete Fairy Tales of Perrault translated by Christopher Betts from Oxford University Press.  It has the Gustave Dore illustrations. Some of which are horrifying. Especially the picture in 'Hop o' my Thumb' depicting the ogre cutting the throats of his sleeping children.
Mikeharvey

Dug out my 'Fairy Tales' by George MacDonald (1824-1905) and read 'The Shadows' (1868). Like many Victorian children's stories this is heavily moral and wears its Christianity on its shoulder.  It's about a man hovering between Life and Death who discovers himself to be King of the Fairies. In this capacity he is able to converse with The Shadows.  These are creatures made of the shadows of flickering fire and candlelight and who deplore the increasing use of gaslight.  We hear lots of their adventures as they play tricks on the wicked and help the needy.  Unfortunately MacDonald is unable to resist bringing in a little child and a Little Child (Jesus) and Christmas. There is also a hardly veiled reference to Queen Victoria.  Disappointing, but intrinsically interesting, for its sheer Victorian-ness.  My copy reproduces the original atmospheric illustrations by Arthur Hughes most famous for his painting 'April Love' which is in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.  
MacDonald has written other fairy tales which don't moralise, such as 'The Light Princess' which is humorous and inventive.  His most famous books are 'At The Back of The North Wind' (well worth seeking out), 'The Princess and the Goblin' and 'The Princess and Curdie'.
miranda

My neice had a copy of Donkey Skin when she was small.  It was in a collection.  She really liked it but I struggled to read it to her because of the incest.   And it was difficult to not let that come through to her.   Very odd story.
kitsumehime

I remember reading a lot of Andrew Lang's fairy tale books when I was younger.  There must have been at least a dozen, all with a color in the title. Some of the stories were pretty scary.
Marita

There are quite a few of those Andrew Lang fairy tale books on Gutenberg.
http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/l#a79

I saw two at a second hand bookshop here, but I found them too pricey at 25 Euro each.
Mikeharvey

There is a large number of 'Fairy Books' by Andrew Lang, and similar books of stories and poetry. I understand that, as the series became popular, a good deal of the work of collecting the material and writing was done by Mrs Lang, but Andrew's name is on the title page.  Some of the Fairy Books have recently been republished in beautiful editions with new illustrations by the Folio Society.
Second-hand copies of the books, and many similar, tend to be in poor condition because of having belonged to children.  I have a copy of a gorgeous Victorian edition of 'The Water Babies' illustrated by Linley Sambourne, with a marvellous pictorial cover, but it is very worn and well-thumbed.  Which means I suppose that it was well loved and often read.  I also have a beautiful Victorian copy of Eugene Field's 'Lullaby Land' which I have to admit is spoiled by having my own name and adress scrawled on the flyleaf in my childish handwriting.  
But I have a first edition copy of E Nesbit's 'Oswald Bastable and Others' which has some of the illustrations coloured in by its first owner about 1908.  Most carefully and neatly and delicately.

       Big Readers Forum Index -> Discuss children's books here.
Page 1 of 1
Create your own free forum | Buy a domain to use with your forum