Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook

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Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook. Ashliman, D. L. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004 268 pages, ISBN 0-313-32810-2

D. L. Ashliman's Handbook is a well-ordered analysis of the folk and fairy tale genre. Its strengths lie in the effective categorization and definition of the various types of stories, the extensive glossary, and the cogent explanation of the impact of these tales upon literature and the arts. Its shortcomings rest in the decision to limit its examination of these tales to only those from the Indo-European tradition and its superficial analysis of the sociological impacts these tales have had upon society today.

Folk and fairy tales encompass a wide variety of types of stories. The author succinctly explains these different classifications within the genre, using the Aarne-Thompson Index1 as a framework. By making extensive use of examples, Ashliman shows clearly the contrasts between, and differing themes amongst, the broad range of tales.

The definitions section is particularly valuable to the reader seeking to get a clearer understanding of the various components of the genre and the contrasts between them. A wide-ranging bibliography, organizes content by both region and theme. The glossary is both detailed and extensive. As an introductory resource for further study, the book is exemplary.

Folk and fairy tales continue to have a pervasive impact upon our world today: the literary and cinematic successes of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, are rooted in their fairy tale origins. Ashliman, when placing these tales within a literary context, reveals the dominant impact that folk tales have had, and continue to have, upon literature, music and film.

However, the treatment of issues of gender within these tales is superficial. Nor, in the analysis of sociological effects, is any detailed focus given to their impact upon the development of capitalist culture. …