Sunday, February 5, 2012

January: Fairy Tales

Yes, I've had my eye on Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm for a while, so I spent January reading about ogres, princesses, talking animals and cruel parents, step- and otherwise. I have volume 1 of The Complete Tales of the Brothers Grimm (which is 2 volumes) and I made it about half way through that, meaning I read 50 of their 200+ tales. There were well-known ones and ones I'd never read before. Of course, these were the real deal, not the sanitized Disney versions. Cinderella's stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to make the shoe fit, birds peck out people's eyes and a young man visits hell and tricks the devil. My two favorites so far were The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, which reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk for some reason, even though it contained no beanstalk, no ogre, no magic treasure to steal. Then in reading up on the tales I was gratified to find that the Grimm brothers also categorized those two tales together, so I must have been making the right connections. Having recently read some Norse myths, it was also interesting to see some parallels in the Teutonic fairy tales, and in following my hunch I found online articles and blog entries discussing the similarities between Jack's beanstalk and the Germanic world tree Yggdrasil. It's been refreshing to switch to thinking about myths, after spending most of 2011 in the 19th century.

I also read The Owl, the Raven and the Dove: the religious meaning of the Grimms' magic fairy tales by G. Ronald Murphy, which offered some interesting historical and cultural criticism. I started The Interpretation of Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz, but haven't finished it, and Jack Zipes' Fairy Tale as Myth/Myth as Fairy Tale is still on deck. The only Hans Christian Andersen tale I read so far is The Little Mermaid, which had a lot of interesting symbolism that I missed when reading it as a child, although I did read the original version and not the Disney one. So, since I'm enjoying this and I still have a lot that I haven't gotten to read yet, I'm going to extend the fairy tale theme through February, and then I'll be done; I promise! That is to say, even if I haven't finished reading all the tales available to me, I'll probably be ready for something else. of the reasons that I didn't finish the above mentioned books is that I read a bunch of other stuff as well: 

Icons: Masterpieces of Russian Art by Olga Polyakova
Tesla: Man out of time by Margaret Cheney
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card
Look Homeward, America by Bill Kauffman
The Complete Moomin Collection: volumes 1 and 6 by Tove Jansson
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Criticism edited by Chester G. Anderson

Now that I've gotten all of those...ahem...pressing volumes out of the way, I'll have more time for Hans, Jacob and Wilhelm. Ooh la la.

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