Title: Faery Tales
Writer: Carol Ann Duffy (illustrated by Tomislav Tomić
Publishing House: Faber
Date of Publication: November 4th 2014
Rating: 5 stars
”Ungrateful man!”, thundered the creature. ”I have saved your life by letting you into my castle and to thank me you steal one of my roses, which I prize over everything!”
My introduction to the world of Carol Ann Duffy is Faery Tales (oh, I adore the old form of the word!), a collection of well-known fairy tales along with a few that aren’t so popular. Duffy achieves a fascinating narrating voice, a mixture of old-school fairy tale language and contemporary dialogue and creates a flowing rhythm that breathes new life to well-loved childhood tales.
Snow White, Bluebeard, Rumpelstiltskin, The Musicians of Bremen. A beautiful rendition of my most favourite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, free form contemporary, pretentious ”messages”. The Emperor in The Emperor’s New Clothes is given a more contemporary voice that marvelously demonstrates his stupidity. Ashputtel is a very beautiful and bloody version that comes close to the original by Giambattista Basile, a tale we all know as ”Cinderella”. The Lady and the Lion is a different, extended version of Beauty and the Beast with elements of another beloved tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Many may recognize this tale by the title The Singing, Springing Lark, a story that makes use of the motif of the wife that must overcome hardships to save her beloved.
Clever Hans is a tale that allows us to know a different version of Hansel and Gretel, without the witch and the gingerbread house. I was quite surprised by this one. The Juniper Tree is a haunting tale -unknown to me- that seems unsuitable for very young children. An exile stepmother kills her husband’s son, cooks him and gives the pieces to the father. Quite a harrowing story, first written down by Philipp Otto Runge. The Maiden Without Hands is the tale of a princess who cuts her hands to stop the inappropriate advances of her brother but this is only one of her misfortunes. A story that would be the perfect Angela Carter fable minus the happy ending.
Why do cats chase rats? The answer can be found in The Chinese Zodiac Circle and a very tense competition between the animals. A delightful tale. We also find The Little Red Cap –always creepy and strange, this tale…- and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a favourite tale of my younger students. Every junior class adores this and the fascination is still growing strong after 12 years.
Beautiful, old-fashioned illustration by Tomislav Tomić and an array of beloved and more obscure tales make this an essential read for the collector of childhood stories.