Joseph Jacobs collected folk and fairy tales on the British Isles over a hundred years ago. His work is fascinating and useful for a teller of tales, such as myself. In his collections you will find some variations of tales collected by Brothers Grimm and others that are unique to English or Gaelic speakers (and translated for our benefit). This book is well made and produced, easy on the eyes and a treasure at small cost.
This book has 43 of the 140 fairy tales that Joseph Jacobs found in England, including such famous tales as The History of Tom Thumb, Jack and the Giant Killer, The Story of the Three Bears, and Jack and the Beanstalk. He tells us that he wrote this book for children. He says that he calls them "fairy tales," even though only a few of them deal with fairies, because this is the name children give to folk tales. He tells us that we will find that most of them are "droll," somewhat funny. What he says is true: beside the humor in the tales, Jacobs writes them in a funny way.
The first tale Tom Tit Tot is a good example. A girl gets herself into a humorous situation, which I will leave the reader to find out, and marries a king on the condition that she can enjoy her life with him to the fullest for eleven months, but must take flax and weave five skeins every day during the twelfth month. All goes well until the twelfth month when the king insists that she start weaving the skeins. When the king leaves, she starts crying bitterly because she cannot do it. Suddenly, a small black creature with a tail comes and offers to weave the flax on the condition that she belong to it at the end of the month if she cannot tell it its name. She agrees and the reader will learn how she finds out the creature's name.
The Three Sillies is another example. It tells the story of a man who was thinking of marrying a girl and discovered that she and her parents had profoundly silly ideas. He said he would go traveling and if he found three more people with silly ideas, he would return and marry the girl. He found them and readers will enjoy reading what they are. Jacobs ends the tale in his usual humorous way: he "married the farmer's daughter, and if they didn't live happy for ever after, that's nothing to do with you or me."
I was looking for a reasonably original version of the story of "The Three Little Pigs". Somehow, I get the impression it was in a Brothers Grimm collection, but after due dilligence, I found it here with Joseph Jacobs. I looked at several of his Fairy Tale collections on Kindle, most are free, and this one is really cheap, but as usual, do not buy a free edition when there is an inexpensive alternative. Invariably, the cheap version will be better in several ways. In this case, the primary virtues seem to be a dual action active table of contents (in the sidebar and within the text) and it appears to have more tales than some of the other editions.
So why should a grown person buy a book of Fairy Tales? The simplist reason is there are surprises to be found that you don't get in the Walt Disney version. For example, "The Three Little Pigs" opens with this verse:
Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme And monkeys chewed tobacco, And hens took snuff to make them tough, And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!
Most of the other surprises were in less familiar tales. If I had a kid, I would get them a Kindle and get a bunch of books like these...and pull the plug on the TV.( well, maybe not really ) But these old standards really deserve a new life in the world of e-books.
Some of the original fairy tales from England and Wales, told simply and well. The only real surprise was how some of them went: the fate of the three little pigs (and the blowhard wolf), the original Goldilocks (who was neither young nor blonde), and the true story of Jack and the beanstalk. A bit more graphic than modern versions, but still a lot of fun.