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Wonder Tales: Six French Stories of Enchantment Hardcover – October, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); Reprint edition (October 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374292817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374292812
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #769,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published centuries ago, the six French fairy tales collected in this charmingly refined little volume appear here, some for the first time in English, in graceful contemporary translations by five internationally recognized writers, including Gilbert Adair, John Ashbery and A.S. Byatt. In her erudite 15-page introduction, novelist and critic Warner (From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers) details how the literary form was invented by French aristocrats during the reign of Louis XIV. Fairy tales were written mostly by women, who gave them universal significance with a feminist subtext, emphasizing, writes Warner, "trueness of heart and toughness of mind." Magic and metamorphosis are distinguishing characteristics of the genre. Centaurs, fairies and talking cats populate the six romantic yet moral tales. In "The White Cat," a prince stumbles upon a fabulous bejeweled palace owned by a beautiful white feline, with whom he falls in love?just as Prince Zelindor, in "Bearskin," falls in love with a beautiful bear. In "The Counterfeit Marquise," an aristocratic boy raised as a girl suffers great frustrations when a beautiful, feminine young man awakens his passion. Though honor and true love are tested, prudence, faithfulness and devotion always triumph. The translations are elaborate but elegant, offering pleasurable diversions and tales within tales. Amusingly illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer, this stylish little book offers fanciful delights granted depth by background and context.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

These six 17th-century French wonder or fairy tales, as editor Warner (From the Beast to the Blonde, LJ 10/1/95) explains in her introduction, fulfilled a need for relief from the social constraints and religious revivalism that prevailed during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The 17th-century salon?regularly held social gatherings presided over by prominent Frenchwomen?perfected the art of public conversation and storytelling. Marie-Jeanne L'Heritier, whose tale "The Subtle Princess" is included here, inherited the salon begun by Madeleine de Scudery. Charles Perrault, who travestied himself as ma mere l'oye (Mother Goose), frequented these salons, while the Abbey of Choisy, a well-known transvestite, collaborated on "The Counterfeit Marquise." These tales are enjoyable because of the adroit skills of translators such as novelists A.S. Byatt and Gilbert Adair and poet John Ashbery. Highly entertaining reading for everyone and especially useful to scholars of French literature and French civilization.?Robert T. Ivey, Univ. of Memphis
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Miller on June 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As one of the editorial reviewers comments, this book is intended for gift-giving. It is a charming, diminutive hardcover containing six French fairy tales from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, translated by some prestigious modern writers and translators, with an introduction, biographical notes, and bibliography by Marina Warner. These tales (and those in future volumes which Warner says she hopes to bring out) are especially interesting to read after Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde, which examines the French salon society and its members (mostly women) who used the writing of these tales as a form of social protest as well as entertainment and even escape. But three of these six tales, as well as a number of others from the same milieu, appear in translations by Jack Zipes in his inexpensive paperback "Beauty and the Beast and Other Classic French Fairy Tales." If you are interested in a broad selection of these tales, including some famous ones like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Sleeping Beauty" (complete with Perrault's violent episodes that are often left out in children's versions), Zipes is a good choice. The texts are there, along with some scholarly introductions and biographies of the authors of the tales in a mass-market format.
Warner's book is more aesthetically pleasing. Its elegant, whimsical design and first-class literary translations invite the reader to escape into stories that are part magical fantasy and part social commentary. These tales are longer than the usual children's fairy stories, and they tend to have more elaborate adventures and quite worldly descriptions of clothing, decoration, and other amenities of aristocratic life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anne-Marie G VINE VOICE on February 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
I had to buy this book just because of how lovely it is, only slightly larger than palm sized with an eye catching cover, besides fairy tales that I hadn't read...definatly worth my curiousity.

Inside of the book are six Wonder Tales, from the salons of France, these are very similiar in style and even in story to many of the more well known fairy tales. Each is romantic in nature and has the presence of a fairy (Good or bad). Often with the moral of outward apperances being deceptive.

The Six Stories are:

The White Cat-- Marie Catherine D'Aulnoy--translated by--John Ashbery

This one I had read before in a much abbreviated, more heavily illustrated kid friendly fairy tale book. Its still a very charming story, sort of a Rapunzel set up but from a different point of view. Very enjoyable.

The Subtle Princess-- Marie-Jeanne l'Heritier de Villadon--translated by Gilbert Adair

I loved this story, it had one of the best princesses in it, Finessa. She was one tough cookie, and showed it with her ability to use the axe that was `accidentally' forgotten in her bedroom. By far the best scene of all the stories.

Bearskin-- Henriette Julie De Murat-- translated by Terence Cave

There are alot of stories of princes and princesses being stuck in the fur of another animal. This one covers the before and after of our princess getting into her bear guise. Plus it has some very fun supporting characters.

The Counterfit Marquise --Charles Perrault and Francois Timoleon de Choisy--Translated by Ranjit Bolt

No fairies in this one. This is so oddly modern in its themes. A woman is determined to have a daughter--even if it means telling her son that he is one as he grows up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I was a child, I had a much-battered, rather chewed up copy of Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book, and it remained a favorite of mine well into my teens. Unlike the bowdlerized Disney renditions, I found these tales to cause delightful shivers, and images of enchantment that stayed with me, often inspiring my own artistic endevours. Over the years I've kept reading various reworkings of the classic tales, but most of them were pale shadows of the originals, and not very good.

Editor Marina Warner takes six tales from the seventeenth century, written by and for the French aristocracy, and invites other modern fabulists to translate and update these stories for today's readers.

Longtime author Marina Warner provides the introduction, as well as a glossary, notes on the authors and translators, as well as the background of the stories themselves. Finally there is a selection of further works on the art of fairytales and the role that they have played in modern culture and thought. The illustrations are by Sophie Herxheimer, in a rather scrawling, thick black ink style. To be honest, I don't like the pictures very much, they're crude and rather primitive, with little to give any vision to the refined aristocratic world that created the stories.

What I discovered while reading these stories that the women in them are slyly showing a form of early feminism, where they use their wits to survive in a world that expected that women remain submissive, quiet, and rather stupid creatures, fit only to bear children. I wonder if the women of these French salons were quietly creating possibilities of subversion and a world where women were valued for who they were, instead of just what was expected of them.
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