H. Anne Stoj's Reviews > The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar
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's review
Dec 28, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: faerytales
Read in November, 2008

I really adore annotated books. It just calls to the book geek in me. Particularly when it concerns a topic that I love. It helps, as well, when the introduction is by someone that I really enjoy reading, like Maria Tatar who, like Jack Zipes, is amazing when it comes to knowledge about faerytales.

So, what are the classics? Most of us probably know a good many, but perhaps not all that Tatar includes here. But they are, in order:

Little Red Riding Hood - Brothers Grimm
Cinderella - Perrault
Hansel and Gretel - Brothers Grimm
Beauty and the Beast - Beaumont
Snow White - Brothers Grimm
Sleeping Beauty - Brothers Grimm
Rapunzel - Brothers Grimm
The Frog King or Iron Heinrich - Brothers Grim
Rumpelstilzkin - Brothers Grimm
Jack and the Beanstalk - Jacobs
Bluebeard - Perrault
The Juniper Tree - Runge
Vasilisa the Fair - Afanasev
East of the Sun, West of the Moon - Asbjornsen and Moe
Molly Whuppie - Jacobs
The Story of the Three Little Pigs - Jacobs
Donkeyskin - Perrault
Kate Crackernuts - Jacobs
Master Cat, or Puss in Boots - Perrault
The Story of the Three Bears - Anonymous
Tom Thumb - Perrault
The Emperor's New Clothes - Andersen
The Little Match Girl - Andersen
The Princess and the Pea - Andersen
The Ugly Duckling - Andersen
The Little Mermaid - Andersen

So, there are the stories. I think before I had this collection I was familiar with most of them in some shape or another. What I constantly find ironic is the idea that faerytales fall under the realm of "children's stories". Take a good look at what's going on, and remember that some like Perrault "tided" up older versions. In Cinderella, the stepmother cuts off the heel of one daughter and the toe of another to make their feet fit in the slipper. Oh, and the stepmother danced to death in red hot iron shoes at the wedding. Snow White has the apple, sure, but she also got duped twice before that with a poisoned comb and corset laces. The Little Mermaid feels like she's walking on knives and no, she doesn't get the prince, so she dies and becomes part of the air and maybe if she's good she'll make it to heaven. The Frog King (we'd know it better as the Frog Prince) is crushed against a wall by the princess. Disney, I believe, didn't show any of that.

The annotations within bring light to why the stories are the way they are. Or were. Donkeyskin is horrific with it's theme of incest (I don't see Disney doing that any time soon, but Robin McKinley's book Deerskin is excellent). Bluebeard is one of my favorites, but again, another horror story. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is simply beautiful (there's a fantastic retelling in novel called East, but I'm forgetting the author's name) and one of the rare stories where the girl isn't in need of rescue but does the rescuing.

I think this is simply an excellent book for someone who would like to know more about faerytales and perhaps doesn't know where to start or how to start looking into their history as there are a good many books out there. What's also rather lovely is that Tatar includes information on some of the best illustrators which are featured through the book as well: Arthur Rackham, Edmond Dulac, Maxfield Parrish and others. It's just really delightful.
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