This was a reread for me. I had read this book many years ago after it first came out, and along the way lost my copy. When I saw it in print again last year, I picked it up. It is a collection of four fairy tales retold by Robin McKinley. The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Frog, The Hunting of the Hind, and The Stolen Princess. Ms McKinley has kept to the original spirit of fairy tales in her retellings. The kingdoms are all unnamed, and if the princes and princesses have names - in the Twelve Dancing Princesses, none of the princesses are named, nor is the soldier who rescues them, nor the King - they are not as important as the roles played. There is a certain tone in fairy tales that if captured, makes the stories themselves the essence - in the Princess and the Frog (also known as the Frog Prince in other retellings), all the characters have names, but it is the character - the princess who is trapped somehow, the prince in disguise, and how they are freed, that is the essential part of the story. The names can change, and so can how the story is told, so long as that story is told. It is the same with each of these stories in this collection. There are moments of haunting beauty, of timeless and perfect description, but it is McKinley's retelling - her twist she puts on each, her version, and her choice of words that cast a mood - that make these so memorable. It is as if she has caught the spirit of the fairy tale and woven it onto the page. These are perfect. I was happy when the Golden Hind is freed by the princess, I was delighted when the princess talks to the frog; I felt the terror of the shadow of the evil that has enchanted the dancing princesses. These are delightful, wonderful versions to read to my daughter when she gets older. They are fun. Now, it will be interesting to compare these with Angela Carter's versions of fairy tales, which I have heard are much darker. And since I love the movie Ella Enchanted as much as I love A Company of Wolves, I suspect that I will like both kinds of fairy tales equally, though for very different reasons. For lightness of touch, beauty, and for charm, these are among the very best. There is a reason it was nominated for the Mythopoeic award.
Though, I have to say now, that I want to rewrite the Princess and the Frog my way now, since I remember the Muppets version also! which I loved also - the princess and her golden ball, and Robin (Kermit's nephew) who brings the ball up. There are so many versions of the Frog Prince, and I think I love them all, because as I said, it is the essential story that I love ....I even have a little metal frog with a crown who sits in my garden 7 months of the year.
I still don't have a copy of Ulysses, so what to read next? My newly-bought books, reading challenges, TBR, Christmas books?