Monday, 2 June 2008
The Classic Fairy Tales - Iona and Peter Opie
I have been reading fairy tales and myths for the past few weeks, to catch up on my Once Upon a Time Challenge. 18 days left.....so I am very relieved to have finally finished another one!
The Classic Fairy Tales by Iona and Peter Opie was published in 1974. I picked this book up long ago, knowing I would want to read it one day. And I am so glad I finally read this book! It is better than I hoped it would be. Not only are the original publications of the fairy tales in English presented in this book, but the history of the fairy tale, other languages it may have come from, and where in the world it is found, is also presented. Best of all, are the illustrations. These are presented from varying fairy tale editions published from the late 16th century right up to about 1930. So Arthur Rackham is here, as well as colour illustrations from as far back as 1804 from Tabart's Popular Stories for the Nursery, which was the first collection of fairy tales to have colour illustations. Every story is accompanied by several illustrations, and an introduction explaining when it was first published and by whom, any other fairy tale versions existing, and how far back similar tales to it go. Some tales go far back in time, some tales are wide-spread over the world (Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs), and others are found in a local area only (Twelve Dancing Princesses, Central European).
All of the fairy tales we would have grown up are represented here. This is a treasure trove of fairy tales. It is a collector's dream to own, for those who are collecting fairy tales, both for the history presented and for the incredible index at the back for other sources of fairy tales. These are the original tellings of the fairy tales in English, and it is interesting to see what has changed since they were first presented in English. For example, originally Goldilocks was an old lady! And that is the version we are given in the book. My favourites, the Frog Prince, and Beauty and the Beast, are here. Everything from Rumpelstiltskin to The Swineherd to Diamond and Toads, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are here.
Best of all, was the delight I found in re-reading these tales once again. After reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter in May, which are written for adults, it was really fun to go back to the original fairy tales and compare them to Carter's versions, and to Neil Gaiman's poems "Locks", which I found running through my mind as I read Goldilocks tonight, and "Instructions", which would do for a general introduction to every fairy tale book published from now on! Both poems come off rather well in my mind; I really think they will be classics as time goes on. But I have to finish Fragile Things to do a proper review then! (It's sitting by my bedside and I have about a quarter of the book to go). Carters hold up well, but still are much darker in tone and mood. I do like her retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Actually, I came to the conclusion tonight that it would be hard to ruin Beauty and the Beast - I remember an old comic book I had, that had the story of the beast who lived in the Swamp ( I believe he was called Swamp Thing!). A blind girl wandered in, and they met and fell in love. since she couldn't see him, she could only hear his voice, he didn't frighten her. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, however, this tale didn't end happily - for some reason she is running through the swamp (I think she is being chased by baddies?) and falls into quicksand. He manages to rescue her, but falls in and dies. I cried buckets of tears, and it was one of my favourite comics of the few my mother allowed in the house. I think the girl's name was Melody. And it's been 33 years since I last saw it! But that's the power of fairy tales - they stay in our hearts and minds, they roam through our souls shaping how we see stories in our lives and in the world around us, all through our lives.