Textbooks are not normally renowned for their sheer readability, but The Classic Fairy Tales is an exception. Edited by Maria Tatar, whose knowledge of fairy tales is both encyclopaedic and also consistently intelligent, this Norton Critical Edition focuses on six classic stories from their early versions to selected contemporary retellings. Students studying Little Red Riding Hood , for example, will also find accompanying, linked texts by James Thurber and Roald Dahl. The concluding section on criticism includes well-known contributions from Bruno Bettelheim and Vladimir Propp plus less familiar pieces from contemporary commentators such as Marina Warner, Jack Zipes and Donald Haase.
These diverse sources are magisterially overseen by the editor, whose own introductions to each section in themselves make this volume worth buying. It would be quite possible to teach a whole undergraduate or postgraduate course from this book alone. Its absence of illustration is a pity, given that contemporary fairy tales draw so heavily on images as well as stories. But with this one caveat, here is that excessively rare bird, a textbook that can also be read for pleasure.
Nicholas Tucker is lecturer in child psychology, University of Sussex.
The Classic Fairy Tales. First Edition
Editor - Maria Tatar
ISBN - 0 393 977 1
Publisher - Norton
Price - £6.95
Pages - 394