Friday 8 October 2010

Charles Perrault: The Complete Fairy Tales

Hot on the heals of the paperback edition of Grimoires: A History of Magic Books, Oxford University Press has released a paperback version of another book that came out in hardback last year - Charles Perrault - The Complete Fairy Tales. This is a lovely translation of classic fairy tales by Christopher Betts also has delightful black-and-white artwork in the style of engravings.

Charles Perrault's versions of fairy tales have become the ones we know and love - including Little Red Riding-Hood, Cinderella and Puss in Boots. However, you might still find a few surprises if you read them. For example, Perrault's version of Sleeping Beauty doesn't end when the prince wakes her. After marrying the prince, the princess is then faced by the the threat of the the prince's ogress mother, who wants to eat her.

As well as familiar stories, this book also includes some less common tales and three verse tales - the account of patient Griselda, Three Silly Wishes and Donkey-Skin. Three Silly Wishes is reasonably well known and is primarily a story with the motto of "be careful what you wish for". However, Griselda and Donkey Skin seem a bit unpalatable by modern standards. The first is about a wife who patiently puts up with years of abuse from her husband and the second is about a father who wants to "marry" his daughter.

Although in Donkey Skin the girl manages to avoid her father's incestuous intentions, the message in Griselda seems to be that wives can do little other than put up with abusive relationshipa. Perhaps - as Christopher Betts mentions - that really was the case in an age when women had few rights. Thank goodness things have changed.

Fairy tales, as well as being enjoyable, traditional fantasies, have layers of meaning. As the Oxford University Press website says:
"They transmute into vivid fantasies the hidden fears and conflicts by which children are affected: fears of abandonment, or worse, conflicts with siblings and parents, and the trials of growing up. This new translation by Christopher Betts exactly captures the tone and flavour of Perrault's world, and the delightful spirit of the originals."
This lovely collection of Charles Perrault's tales is aimed at anyone who enjoys fairy tales, fantasy, myth and folklore, readers of classic literature and those who are interested in children's literature and its history.

The Complete Fairy Talesis published by Oxford University Press in the Oxford World's Classics series and is available to order through Amazon.

Oxford University Press also publishes Grimoires: A History of Magic Books and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. You can enter a competition to win a copy of each here:

The Complete Fairy Tales (Oxford World's Classics)

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