A Fairy Tale Miscellany
Over the last month, I have been posting on Saturdays about some of the more influential fairy tale collections/collectors. Today, I wanted to wrap up the series by going over some of the other collections. These and their collectors are no less influential, but I came to know them later in my life and am still discovering their hidden gems.
Andrew Lang (1844-1912) was a poet and novelist. He was born in Scotland, and was most known for his publications in folklore and mythology. He has edited a series of fairy tale collections sometimes referred to as the Color or Rainbow Fairy Books. The first was The Blue Fairy Book in 1889 when it sold 5000 copies for 6 shillings each. The last was The Lilac Fairy Book in 1910. The entire collection including the other colors (Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Violet, Crimson, Brown, Orange and Olive) can be found here – some versions like the individual books for Kindle are FREE!
This 12 book collection contains 437 stories and represents cultures from all around the world. Many of the stories were published for the first time in English in this series. At the time when Lang was collecting and publishing these tales, English collections were few and far between. He worked amidst critics who felt that the tales were too violent for young readers. He proved them wrong, and his series was extremely popular and influential in children’s literature.
Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916) was an English author who became a collector and publisher of English folklore. He was born in Australia, went to England at the age of 18 to study at Cambridge. He later studied at the University of Berlin. In 1900, he settled in the United States where he was the revising editor for the Jewish Encyclopedia. He wrote many literary articles and books on Jewish culture and contributions to civilization. He was also a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.
He popularized “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “The Three Little Pigs,” and “Tom Thumb,” among others. My two favorite collections are his English Fairy Tales (1890) and More English Fairy Tales (1894). Recently, I have also discovered his other collections from European cultures, as well as the Celtic and Indian Fairytale collections. These collections contain ballads and nursery rhymes as well as fairy tales.
Italo Calvino (1923-1985) was an Italian journalist. He also wrote short stories and novels. He spent two years in the 1950s collecting stories found in 19th century Italian collections. He then translated 200 of what he considered to be the finest tales to create his Italian Folktales (1956). This was named one of the New York Times ten best books the year it was published.
George MacDonald (1824-1905) was an author, poet and Christian minister. He is best known for The Princess and the Goblin (1872) and At the Back of the North Wind (1871), two wonderful fantasy novels, as well as his fairy tales. My favorite tales in this collection are “The Light Princess,” and “The Golden Key.”
He wrote, “I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.” 🙂
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish writer. He is best known for his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and The Importance of Being Ernest (1895). He also wrote some shorter fairy stories for magazines and published The Happy Prince and Other Stories in 1988 and A House of Pomegranates (1891), both of which are collected in The Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde.
Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England (1987)
Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves (1989)
Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture (1991)
Beauties, Beasts and Enchantments: Classic French Fairy Tales (2009)
The Golden Age of Folk and Fairy Tales: From the Brothers Grimm to Andrew Lang (2013)
Do yourself a favor. If you haven’t read any of these collections, pick yourself up a copy and let yourself get lost in the wonder. Many of these collections can be found at your local library or in free e-book formats!