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The Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Editions) 1st ed Edition
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This book is a collection of both classical fairy tales and contemporary ones, though you never get the contemporary ones without their former classical models. Mostly, the book is divided into some six or seven sections devoted to the most well known tales out there: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel. There's also a section about Andersen and one about Wilde.
For each section there is an introduction by Maria Tatar, usually an excellent one. Also, since this is a Norton Critical Edition, you get a whole part of the book devoted to essays by the most recognised critics of fairy tales. Some of those are dubious, and bashed by other essays included there, and rightly so. Be careful about the psychoanalytical ones. But basically it's interesting to see how thoughts evolve from one essay to another, because they're put in such an order that they exist in a continuous current of thought, and that gives a neat unity to this book, as far as the essay side of it is concerned.
Excellent book to get into fairy tales with a critical mind.
The author has, in each case, given us a fare selection of the variations of each of these tales as presented by different cultures throughout the world and different eras. This work is well researched, and I say this not lightly. I am modestly familiar with this particular genre, its history and its place in the pantheon of our literature...the author has done her work well. Not only do we get an accurate rendition of the original tale (as close to original as we probably ever will get, as many of these tales received their origin so far back into the mist of time, that it would be impossible to be absolutely accurate as many of them began strictly through oral tradition), but the author has in several cases given us a more modern version of the tale from a feminist view point.
If we take the story of Cinderella, we find that over the past several hundred years that there have been literally hundreds of versions of this classic myth. Tatar has given us a good sampling; not all inclusive, I grant you, but good never the less. The comparisons are stark, well presented and do indeed give us a wonderful overview. I also appreciated the authors various and many comments as to the impact Disney has had on these timeless stories.
This is a very readable book. It can be read cover to cover (which I feel is best), or can be used to research and edify specific stories that the reader might be interested in specifically. Reader be warned though, some of these stories are absolutely grim and a far cry from the diluted and sanitized nursery stories we are now fed. I have always felt that the Brother Grimm, were...well grim, but I find that their rendition of these old stories were far and away more civil than the originals that they made their compilation from. The Brothers actually dropped much of the gore, sex and taboos such as incest, rape and sheer butchering from their versions.
This is a very good and very informative read and a must for anyone interested in the classic fairy tale. Like any such work though, the reader should not stop with just this work, but continue and consider the opinion of other scholars in this field.
On the other hand, and this is just a personal observation, for what it is worth, some times a good cigar is just that; a good cigar. Likewise, sometimes a good story is just that; a good story. I always try not to loose sight of that fact.