The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Other Fairy Tales

The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Other Fairy Tales

The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Other Fairy Tales

The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Other Fairy Tales

Synopsis

Alfred David and Mary Elizabeth Meek have compiled a collection of fairy tales that ranges from the Grimm brothers' inimitable recreations of archetypal folktales to the modern prose charm of James Thurber's Many Moons. The appeal of the stories is wide and varied: the refined intelligence of Perrault, the wondrous imagination of Andersen, the descriptive power of Ruskin, the bittersweet melancholy of Wilde. These are but a few of the artists represented in this remarkably inclusive selection of works from Germany, Russia, France, Scandinavia, England, and America. Many are in new translations in the modern idiom and all testify eloquently to the unceasing vitality of this literary genre.

Excerpt

There are traces of fairy tales in every conceivable form of literature, including the very oldest and the very best. Homer’s Odysseus contends against giants and witches and makes a journey to the underworld. the story of Joseph in Genesis reads just like a fairy tale. Joseph is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and through his power of interpreting dreams (much as heroes in fairy tales solve riddles) he rises to become ruler of Egypt. the knights in medieval romances are constantly having fairy-tale adventures, and so are the saints in medieval legends. Saint George the dragon slayer is a combination of the two. the choice of the three caskets in The Merchant of Venice is a typical fairy-tale problem, as is the question King Lear puts to his three daughters. Goneril and Regan are, of course, the wicked older sisters; Cordelia, the youngest, is kind and good; and in the old versions of the tale she lives to witness the punishment of her sisters.

This is not to say that the Odyssey, the story of Joseph, and King Lear are fairy tales or that their authors were even dimly conscious of using the matter of which fairy tales are made. It does show the deep roots traditional stories have in the imagination. Fairy tales are not, as is commonly believed, a form of chil-

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