Thursday, March 15, 2012

"They think that to write a new fairy tale is easy work..." & A Note Of Thanks

Brown Fairy Book "Father Grumbler" by Omar Rayyan
They think that to write a new fairy tale is easy work. They are mistaken: the thing is impossible. Nobody can write a new fairy tale; you can only mix up and dress up the old, old stories, and put the characters into new dresses … But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: ‘Flowers and fruits, and other winged things.’ These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed. Real fairies never preach or talk slang. At the end, the little boy or girl wakes up and finds that he has been dreaming. Such are the new fairy stories. May we be preserved from all the sort of them!
Andrew Lang, preface to the Lilac Fairy Book (1910)
I recently re-read this quote of Andrew Lang's and just felt I had to post. I'm sure if he were alive today he would say something very similar, though I do think that he might also be excited about the wealth of 'new' tales and retellings available now. We live in a very fortunate time to have the benefit of fairy tale works by those such as Terri Windling, Jane Yolen, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley and so, so many other wonderful writers I haven't the room to include here, not to mention having so many collections now available for the price of online access (thank you Project Gutenberg and SurLaLune!). 
Brown Fairy Book "The Enchanted Head"
I can't help but feel some wry recognition at Mr. Lang's sentiment though. I'm so grateful for a fairy tale community that shares the wealth of thoughts, ideas, incarnations and works so that I'm not limited to popular retellings and works of fantasy only. Supporting that wealth, we live in a time of vibrant and excellent fairy tale analysis by contemporary scholars such as Jack Zipes, Maria Tatar and Marina Warner (to name very few) and all the resources these wonderful people (and many more) have made available to the average person.

None of these efforts, in fiction and in scholarship, are easy but they have greatly enriched the lives of so many.

My thanks to you all in the fairy tale community - scholars, students, writers, artists, researchers, bloggers, enthusiasts and readers alike. You help make it a good time to be alive.
Brown Fairy Book "The Mermaid and the Boy"

Note: All images are by Omar Rayyan for the re-release of Andrew Lang's Brown Fairy Book by the Folio Society. You can find Mr. Rayyan's gorgeous website and portfolio HERE and the wonderful blog he shares with his artist wife Sheila Rayyan HERE.

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