The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales is a remarkable treasure trove, a work that celebrates the best-loved tales of childhood and presents them through the vision of Maria Tatar, a leading authority in the field of folklore and children's literature. Into the woods with Little Red Riding Hood, up the beanstalk with Jack, and down through the depths of the ocean with the Little Mermaid, this volume takes us through many of the familiar paths of our folkloric heritage. Gathering together twenty-five of our most cherished fairy tales, including enduring classics like "Beauty and the Beast," "Jack and the Beanstalk," " ," and "Bluebead," Tatar expertly guides readers through the stories, exploring their historical origins, their cultural complexities, and their psychological effects. Offering new translations of the non-English stories by the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, or Charles Perrault, Tatar captures the rhythms of oral storytelling and, with an extraordinary collection of over 300 often rare, mostly four-color paintings and drawings by celebrated illustrators such as Gustave Doré, George Cruikshank, and Maxfield Parrish, she expands our literary and visual sensibilities. As Tatar shows, few of us are aware of how profoundly fairy tales have influenced our culture. Disseminated across a wide variety of historical and contemporary media ranging from opera and drama to cinema and advertising, they constitute a vital part of our storytelling capital. What has kept them alive over the centuries is exactly what keeps life pulsing with vitality and variety: anxieties, fears, desires, romance, passion, and love. Up close and personal, fairy tales tell us about the quest for romance and riches, for power and privilege, and, most importantly, they show us a way out of the woods back to the safety and security of home. Challenging the notion that fairy tales should be read for their moral values and used to make good citizens of little children, Tatar demonstrates throughout how fairy tales can be seen as models for navigating reality, helping children to develop the wit and courage needed to survive in a world ruled by adults. This volume seeks to reclaim this powerful cultural legacy, presenting the stories that we all think we know while at the same time providing the historical contexts that unlock the mysteries of the tales. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales is a volume that will rank as one of the finest fairy tale collections in many decades, a provocative and original work to be treasured by students, parents, and children.
Maria Tatar’s collection of essays by leading fairy-tale scholars serves as a quick and thorough way to become reacquainted with what others are doing in the fairy-tale studies field. Conversely, if someone is new to fairy-tale studies, this book contains cutting-edge research that can serve as a fine introduction.
The book begins with a brief biography of the twelve contributors. This section is followed by a timeline of significant dates in fairy-tale history, starting with the publication of Giovanni Francesco Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights in 1550–1553 and ending with 2004’s release of Hans-Jörg Uther’s The Types of International Folk Tales: A Classification and a Bibliography. Tatar introduces the text by explaining why fairy tales endure and are beloved. Her goal in assembling these essays is to allow readers to engage with the mutable text of these stories and understand how they might be analyzed: “The contributors all focus on a specific tale or set of tales to model an interpretive pathway and to dig deeply through the historical and symbolic layers of the fairy tale” (7). In the twelve chapters that follow, each contributor fulfills that goal in relation to his or her specific area of study. Although some contributors focus more on an interpretive style and others on the assembling of a collection, each essay deepens the reader’s understanding of the genre.
The book begins with Valdimar Hafstein’s essay, “Fairy Tales, Copyright, and the Public Domain,” which highlights the controversies over copyrighting fairy tales that are part of a country’s folklore and not the creation of a single author. Hafstein also explores gender issues regarding folklore traditions in that “men penned original works; they ruled the domain of authorship,” whereas “the place of women was in the constitutive outside of that domain, in its residue: folklore” (24). A different view of the role of women is found in the next two chapters. Tatar’s essay, “Female Tricksters as Double Agents,” explores four females whom she sees as tricksters: Gretel from “Hansel and Gretel,” [End Page 167] Scheherazade from Thousand and One Nights, Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels, and Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. These characters “seem consistently united in their double mission of remaking the world even as they survive adversity” (57). The female protagonists in Shuli Barzilai’s essay do little to remake the world, as they are unconscious. Her essay, “While Beauty Sleeps: The Poetics of Male Violence in Perceforest and Almodóvar’s Talk to Her,” focuses on the retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” tales. Barzilai notes that the rape-fantasy imagery of an anonymous fourteenth-century French tale differs little from a twenty-first-century movie adaptation, and this imagery is consistent throughout most versions of the tale.
Two lenses for fairy-tale interpretation appear in Chapters 4 and 5. Cristina Bacchilega takes on “Snow White and Rose Red” and its adaptations using a “hypertextual form of intertexuality,” in which newer versions of a tale may not be linked to a specific “original” tale type (79). In her essay, “Fairy-Tale Adaptations and the Economies of Desire,” she discusses variations of the tale and shows how they have been adapted and transformed for modern readers. “Fairy-Tale Symbolism,” by Francisco Vaz da Silva, uses “The Maiden Who Seeks Her Brothers” as a case study for symbolism and allomotifs based on the work of Sigmund Freud and Alan Dundes. Vaz da Silva proposes that the symbols in fairy tales can be linked to those in myth and ritual.
Nancy Canepa focuses on both male and female tricksters in “Trickster Heroes in ‘The Boy Steals the Ogre’s Treasure.’” Canepa does not just refer to traditional male heroes such as Jack and Corvetto; she also focuses on a female trickster, Agatuzza in “The Story of a Queen,” by Giuseppe Pitrè, and uses these examples to highlight that the lines between good and bad are blurred in trickster tales. Maria...