Friday 12 June 2015

Fairytale Fridays: Andrew Lang and the Fairy Books

I decided in the interests of not forgetting about it that I should make Fairytale Fridays every two weeks instead of once a month. Then I promptly forgot about it, obviously! However, this weeks topic was self-evident really.

I've been collecting the beautiful Folio Society editions of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books for a while now without really knowing much about them beyond that they are collections of tales from around the world, so I decided to change that this week! It also inspired me to do a bit more reading on the authors of the various collections that I own, which will be coming another week.

There are twelve volumes of the Fairy Books, each in a different colour. They were published between 1889 and 1910 and were among the first English collections of fairytales. Aside from Lang only Madame d'Aulnoy (originator of the term 'fairytales') had collected the tales from such a large variety of sources before which made his collections pretty much unique. He was also among the first people to edit the tales specifically for children which obviously is very influential as today fairytales are viewed as tales for children although they weren't originally.

Although Lang had final say on what went into each collection he didn't actually do much of the translation or retelling of the tales; most of that was done by his wife and other translators although he eventually took credit for the work. Although he didn't collect his tales from their primary oral sources he did give many tales their first telling in English, and there are many tales, particularly in the later volumes that I personally have never heard of.

The Blue Fairy Book published in 1889 is the first volume and contains Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Aladdin, Rumplestilskin, Beauty and the Beast, Goldilocks, Hansel & Gretel and Jack the Giant Killer as a sample of the tales modern audiences will undoubtedly have heard of. In contrast the last volume, The Lilac Fairy Book contains no tales whose titles sounded immediately familiar. I'm interested to read the later volumes that I have (Crimson and Olive) and try to draw some conclusions as to why these tales are less well known. Undoubtedly because they haven't received the Hollywood treatment, but it will be intriguing to see if there are any easily identifiable reasons why.

I currently only have three volumes in the Folio editions, but from time to time my wonderful husband gets hold of one for my birthday or Christmas and eventually I hope to have them all. Not only are the beautiful outside (and the traditional Folio box gives them that little something extra) but they are full of gorgeous illustrations. They're pretty much the quintessential concept of what a fairytale anthology should be in my opinion!

Do you have any beautiful editions of fairytale related work? I'd love to see them! Tweet or Instagram them using #fairytalefridays so everyone can see, and don't forget to link up your fairytale related posts and spread the word!

1 comment:

  1. What a great thing to collect. Will definitely be interested in learning what you think is the reason the later books have lesser well-known tales.