Fairy Tales of This Fair Isle; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS

Daily Mail (London), April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Fairy Tales of This Fair Isle; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS


Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge

QUESTION France had Charles Perrault, Germany The Brothers Grimm and Denmark Hans Christian Andersen -- do we have a fairy story writer in this country?

THE term fairy tale is hard to define precisely: in general terms it's a wonder tale involving marvellous elements and occurrences.

Most fairy tales are simply retellings of ancient folk tales or legends of oral or written origin.

Charles Perrault was the first collector of fairy tales, but rather than writing original stories, he was interpreting extant tales.

In 1697, the 69-year-old Perrault published Tales And Stories Of The Past With Morals, subtitled Tales Of Mother Goose. While the title clearly shows they were not original stories, it was the first great collection of fairy tales; it introduced many well-known tales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss In Boots.

The book also inspired other authors around Europe to begin collecting and reinterpreting tales from their own countries.

The Brothers Grimm were also collectors and interpreters of existing fables; between 1812 and 1857 they reinterpreted much of Perrault's collection and introduced many more popular tales such as The Frog Prince, Hansel And Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White.

Of the three, only Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) created original pieces, including The Little Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling.

Britain's two principal collectors of fairy tales, Andrew Lang (1844-1912) and Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916), both produced collections around the turn of the 20th century.

Lang was born in Selkirk in the Scottish borders. Having studied at St Andrews and Oxford Universities he became a well-known journalist, poet, critic, classicist and historian, but is chiefly remembered today for his anthropological works, Custom And Myth (1884) and In Myth, Ritual And Religion (1887) and his Fairy Books.

From 1889 to 1910, he produced 12 volumes of beautifully illustrated fairy tales. Each was designated a colour, beginning with the Blue Fairy Book and running through Red, Green, Yellow, Pink etc.

Lang's collections were targeted at children. While most were reinterpretations of tales collected by Perrault and Grimm, he also introduced children to Norse stories, Tales From The Arabian Nights and classic British folk stories such as Dick Whittington and Jack And The Beanstalk.

Jacobs was an Australian-born historian and folklorist who studied at Cambridge University. From 1890 to 1912, he produced several volumes of folk stories, including English Fairy Tales, More English Fairy Tales, Celtic Fairy Tales, More Celtic Fairy Tales, and European Folk And Fairy Tales.

Unlike Lang, most of his works were inspired by tales and fables from around Britain. His collections introduced the public to classic stories such as The Three Little Pigs, The Story Of The Three Bears and Henny-Penny.

These works proved highly influential and it's no coincidence that one of Britain's great original fairy tales appeared at this time, Peter Pan (1904), by J. M. Barrie.

Meanwhile, Charles Kingsley's moral fable The Water Babies (1863) must surely be regarded as an original fairy tale.

Debbie Faithorne, Winchester, Hants.

QUESTION Is it true that there is currently an unprecedented number of second-hand Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborginis, etc, up for sale in Italy, because the authorities are studying the tax records of anyone who owns one?

WHEN Mario Monti supplanted Silvio Berlusconi last November, his main remit was to curb the record borrowing costs on Italy's [euro]1.9trillion debt and avoid the humiliating bailouts suffered by Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Monti immediately highlighted the fact that tax evasion costs Italy [euro]130 billion a year in lost revenue and launched several eye-catching initiatives. …

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