More than a century before the Disneyfication of Snow White, German folklorists the Brothers Grimm collected the fairy tale in their anthology Nursery and Household Tales. But their version, and earlier tellings including one titled "The Young Slave" from the 17th century, was not quite the Snow White that in 1937 became Disney's first animated feature film. No, the original story, as summarized by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo at the Daily Grail, "has elements of murderous jealousy, ritual cannibalism, sexual temptation, necrophilic imagery and capital punishment." From the Daily Grail:
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Mad with envy, feeling that her power is at stake by the young girl’s increasing beauty, the queen orders the huntsman (who in other versions is her lover) to kill Snow White and bring back her lungs and liver. The huntsman takes her to the forest, but when he is about to kill her, she begs for mercy and he feels incapable of harming someone with such beauty. He finally abandons her in the deep forest, convinced that the wild beasts will take her. The queen wanted her internal organs, so the huntsman, in what historian of religions Norman Girardot suggests is a reminiscence of the “sacrificial rites of the virgin maiden”, kills a wild boar instead – in antiquity, these were frequently used as a substitute for human sacrifice to appease the gods.
The subsequent event has been largely forgotten – and rarely shown in film adaptations. When the queen receives her daughter’s viscera, she decides she’ll have them salted and boiled, then feasts upon them with epicurean pleasure, convinced that they’re Snow White’s.
Colin Johnson is an overnight legend.
This exchange has all the ingredients of a classic fairy tale — note that it's not really Ladbrokes replying to him, but a cunning trickster. Watch for many more like it in the coming months and years as England generates a new folklore. Read the rest
I discovered The 13 Clocks
by reading Neil Gaiman's introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats
, a massive collection of Gaiman's nonfiction), where he calls it "Probably the best book in the world" -- how could I resist?
A first edition of Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book (1889) will run you about $(removed) for a copy in good condition. Amazon has a free Kindle edition.
You can also download a free audiobook version.
From Abe Books:
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Andrew Lang (1844-1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic, but his enduring legacy is not his prodigious writing. Lang is best remembered for his contribution to folklore and storytelling thanks to his 12-volume ‘Fairy Books’ collection.
Many people in the late Victorian era considered traditional fairytales to be unfit for children because of their brutal and violent themes, so English collections of fairytales were rare during this period. Lang, on the other hand, grew up reading classic fairy tales during his childhood in the rural Scottish Borders and he believed that the next generation of children should not be subjected to the dreamy, gentle, flower-orientated fairy tales that were popular at the time.
The first of his collections was the Blue Fairy Book (1889), for which Lang pulled together tales from the Brothers Grimm, Madame d’Aulnoy, the Arabian Nights, and many other sources. The first edition had 5,000 copies, which sold for six shillings each. The book did reasonably well and led to the release of the Red (1890) and Green Fairy Books (1892), in the preface of the latter Lang predicted that this third volume would be his last. However, Lang underestimated the appeal of these tales culled from all corners of the earth including Africa, Norway, North America and China.
See sample pages from this book at Wink.
Neil Gaiman’s stirring narrative of Hansel and Gretel combined with artist Lorenzo Mattotti’s oppressively black illustrations give the Brothers Grimm fairytale a nightmarish quality different from what I remember as a kid. Back then the terrifying takeaway was the trusting old woman in the candy-coated gingerbread house who transformed into a mean and hungry cannibal. Don’t get me wrong, the evil old woman is still mighty sinister in Gaiman’s book, but this time the takeaway was the horror of parental abandonment and betrayal. Maybe because I’m now an adult, or maybe because it wasn’t told in such detail when I was a kid (I can’t remember), the events leading up to Hansel and Gretel finding the gingerbread house in this version are quite unsettling. Although it’s a great creepy book for kids, I’d be careful not to read it to younger children who might be sensitive to the darker side of fairy tales. After all, there are no good fairies in this book.
Hansel & Gretel
by Neil Gaiman (author) and Lorenzo Mattotti (illustrator)
2014, 56 pages, 7.5 x 10.3 x 0.4 inches
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Firstsecond's new Fable Comics
is the third knockout anthology in which amazing, hugely varied comics creators recreate some of the world's best loved stories. As with Nursery Rhyme Comics
and Fairy Tale Comics
, Fable Comics
draws from diverse source material and presents it in varied, fresh ways that have something for everyone.
It's no secret that the Disney-fied versions of fairy tales that we grew up with in modern times pale in comparison to the originals, told by the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.
The originals were often dark and gruesome cautionary tales that taught children about the dangers of the world. Now, for the first time, an English translation of the first edition of the original tales as told by the Brothers Grimm has been published by Princeton University Press. Even the cover of this book is scary! Read the rest
For the past two months, my daughter's and my main bedtime reading has been The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a modern folktale written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess, a power duo if ever there was one. This is a story set on an American prairie farm sometime in the 20th century, about Lillian, a kind-hearted girl who sets out saucers of milk for the wild cats, scatters grain for the songbirds, and leaves a biscuit by the oldest, most gnarled apple tree in the orchard for the Apple Tree Man. And it's because of her good heart and her wild spirit that the cats of Tanglewood Forest defy the king of cats, and work cat-magic to rescue her when she is bitten by a snake and brought near to death. Now she has been reborn as a kitten, and she must find out how she can once again become a girl.
The book is lavishly illustrated with Charlie Vess's amazing art nouveau paintings (you may recognize these from his frequent collaborations with Neil Gaiman, such as the beautiful picture book Blueberry Girl). The paintings -- which appear as full pages, but are also worked into the margins, endpapers, and jacket -- are a wonderful and gripping accompaniment to the story. Although this story is too sophisticated for my six-year-old to have read to herself, the combination of the illustrations and my reading it aloud made it absolutely accessible to her. And these paintings are so gorgeous that she was more than happy to sit and thumb through the book, enjoying them on their own. Read the rest