Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives/The Teller's Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers

By Jorgensen, Jeana | Journal of American Folklore, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives/The Teller's Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers


Jorgensen, Jeana, Journal of American Folklore


Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Ed. Christine A. Jones and Jen- nifer Schacker. (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2013. Pp. 580, introduction, notes on contributors, sources.)

The Teller's Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers. Ed. Sophie Raynard. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012. Pp. vi + 183, introduction, list of contributors, index.)

Fairy tale scholars have much to look forward to in the two books Marvelous Transformations and The Teller's Tale. Although both books are intellectually stimulating, the breadth and depth of Marvelous Transformations, as well as its strong folkloristic orientation, makes it more suitable for classroom use as well as perusal for research or pleasure.

Christine A. Jones and Jennifer Schacker's guiding aim in creating their anthology, Marvel- ous Transformations, is a historical orientation. Their focus is on re-integrating the histories of fairy tales across national, linguistic, generic, and communicative boundaries (p. 22). The anthologized tales are thus arranged chrono- logically, thereby highlighting continuities over time and space. In part 1, canonical tales appear alongside lesser-known tales, and even experi- enced fairy tale scholars are guaranteed to dis- cover something that is new to their interests. The broad range of tales included in the volume reveals many contrasts, such as those between the ornate language of literary tales and the dif- fering styles of orally collected tales. The Com- tesse de Murat's description of a carriage that a fairy made from a giant's skull illustrates the whimsical element of many tales:

The giant was ninety-six feet tall: she had his skull reworked in such an agreeable manner than everything necessary could be found in it from the undercarriage to the wheels, and as she only wanted to travel by night, she had it painted with a black veneer; she had harnessed to it two great mastiffs to whom she attached the wings of Indian bats who are, in that coun- try, as large as cows. (p. 212)

Contemporary tales that encompass modern rewritten tales, as well as recently collected and/ or translated tales, also occupy a range of lin- guistic and social positions. Amid well-known adaptations such as those of Anne Sexton and Robert Coover, tales such as Sylvia Townsend Warner's "Bluebeard's Daughter," which tells of the serial killer's daughter growing up and mar- rying, display delightful surprises.

Furthermore, the editors' attention to the normative role of criticism in shaping our ways of reading and interpreting fairy tales is com- pelling. Their introduction offers suggestions for ways to read fairy tales, and their treatment offers insights for both longtime scholars and newcomers. One especially relevant example of their insightful overview is a new and persua- sive reading of the language in "Tittle Red Rid- ing Hood." The critical essays in part 2 of the book are similarly informative and enjoyable. The interlocking categories of genre, ideology, authorship, reception, and translation receive stellar treatment from folklore and literary scholars alike.

The aim of The Teller's Tale is somewhat dif- ferent. The book's editor, Sophie Raynard, ex- plains that "this collection of newly researched biographies of the best-known authors of Eu- ropean fairy tales rectifies false data, adds new information, and provides a reliable historical context for Europe's fairy tales" (p. 3). Covering primarily Italian, French, and German writers, this collection of essays is thought-provoking and informative. …

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