The Victorian fascination with fairyland is reflected in the literature of the period, which includes some of the most imaginative fairy tales ever written. They offer the shortest path to the age’s dreams, desires, and wishes. Authors central to the nineteenth-century canon such as Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, and Rudyard Kipling wrote fairy tales, and authors primarily famous for their work in the genre include George MacDonald, Juliana Ewing, Mary De Morgan, and Andrew Lang. This anthology brings together fourteen of the best stories, by these and other outstanding practitioners, to show the vibrancy and variety of the form and its ability to reflect our deepest concerns.
The stories in this selection range from pure whimsy and romance to witty satire and darker, uncanny mystery. Paradox proves central to a form offered equally to children and adults. Fairyland is a dynamic and beguiling place, one that permits the most striking explorations of gender, suffering, love, family, and the travails of identity. Michael Newton’s introduction and notes explore the literary marketplace in which these tales appeared, as well as the role they played in contemporary debates on scepticism and belief. The book also includes a selection of original illustrations by some of the masters of the field such as Richard Doyle, Arthur Hughes, and Walter Crane.
This book has a varied collection of fairy tales popular during the Victorian era, told in a way Disney definitely wouldn’t approve of!
Victorian Fairy Tales begins with a lengthy and detailed introduction, explaining some of the history and purpose of these stories. I knew a bit about this topic already, but it makes for fairly interesting reading.
As for the fairy tales themselves, some are only a couple of pages long (The Princess and the Peas), while other run for many chapters. I was not familiar with all of them, and others, such as The Three Bears were distinctly different to the version I see everywhere. No Goldilocks in sight, but a mean old woman in her place!
This was a time when morals were taught through stories but the characters themselves were rarely developed. For example, a princess was a princess and very delicate, but she often had no name and rarely anything resembling a personality.
One thing I did like was all the references to the ‘Crim Tatars’ and their suffering in the story The Rose and the Ring. Now, in 2015, the Crimean Tatars are back to suffering all over again under Russian occupation!
This is an easy read. You can sit down and read a couple of stories at a time, some of them old favourites and some of them probably brand new to you.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.