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I caught the end of an episode of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge (1) on Wednesday morning and heard A.S. Byatt talking about turn-of the-century (you know which century I mean) children’s literature in the context of her 2009 book, The Children’s Book. The interviewer asked her if we might be living in a new golden age ( in the present century) of children’s books, and Byatt agreed. I think. But she also said, and this is the interesting part, that the number of adults who read children’s books says either something about those adults or something about the state of adult literature. She thought that the most important books being writen for any age group in that earlier Edwardian golden age were, in fact, children’s books, but she also thinks that they weren’t written exclusively for children. Peter Pan, for example. Contrast that with Maria Tatar’s recent article about the same period (2).
The rest of the episode is about fairy tales, which, even though they never went away, are coming back in a big way. I had an actual grown-up asking me for Grimm’s original fairy tales the other day, because she and her husband have been watching the TV show Grimm. She went looking in the adult section for the gory versions, and then came–ha ha!–to me. Where I was able to give her a nice new Calla edition with lovely Arthur Rackham illustrations.
So here is the short bibliography for today, on fairy tales:
1. First you must read them. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, Calla Editions, 2010.
2. Then you must read about the Brothers Grimm: Hettinga, Donald R. The Brothers Grimm:Two Lives, One Legacy. Clarion, 2001.
3. Next, why not read a collection of older versions compiled by that master of fairy tale scholarship: Zipes, Jack. The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm. Norton, 2001.
4. Then go on to some more fairy tale scholarship: Tatar, Maria. Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. Princeton, 1993.
5. And finally, because now you’re very tired and just want some fun, consult The Storyteller’s Sourcebook: a subject, title, and motif index to folklore collections for children, by Margaret Read MacDonald. Been wondering just want Tale Type 510a is? You hear so much about it, don’t you? Look it up! This is a fantastic resource for storytelling, writing, and learning about folk and fairy tales.
Special bonus: two fine websites.
1. Sur la Lune A site dedicated to fairy tales in their original form and in pop cuture. Contains several annotated tales.
2. D.L. Ashliman’s Folktexts site. Hundreds of folk and fairy tales, told plainly and often in brief. Invaluable.
(1.)Listen to the podcast here.
(2.) Read Tatar’s article here.