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review 2015-07-12 09:01
Tales for everyone
Victorian Fairy Tales - Michael Newton

I’m not sure what to make of this book. I didn’t like most tales in the first half. Each one was a slow read and often didactic.

William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring was a farce and it had all the required archetypes: a couple of usurper kings, a poor misplaced prince, a good princesses, a spoiled princess, a fairy godmother, a nasty crone, plus a couple of magical artefacts. The good characters encounter a slew of problems on their way to happy ending. The bad are duly punished for their wickedness. The author wrote a comedy, and he almost succeeded, although for me, it seemed amusing rather than funny.

Why didn’t I like this tale? Because the heroes don’t bring on their own happiness, don’t overcome obstacles by themselves. The fairy godmother directs their actions and helps them every step of the way, as long as they obey her directives. She also punishes the bad guys, and nobody reaches his own victory without her interference. Not a blueprint I would like my children to follow.

The same moral lesson springs up in several other tales. If you are good, if you endure your trials, a fairy godmother (or a variation thereof) might help you. In one of the saddest tales in the book, The Little Lame Prince and his Traveling Cloak by Dinah Mulock Craik, the hero is a crippled boy. Both his legs are paralyzed from birth. His fairy godmother says it straight: “I can’t fix your problem but I can help you endure it.” So he endures, until his fortunes change for the better, without his efforts, I might add.

I dislike this moral. It implies passivity, which doesn’t sit well with me, or with most readers of today, I’m sure.

Fortunately, the second half of the book had a better appeal. A few tales were outright funny, and in each one, the heroes acted. One of my favorites was Prince Prigio by Andrew Lang. In this story, the hero, Prince Prigio, has a serious flaw: he is too clever. That’s why nobody likes him, even though he doesn’t care. He is too clever for them all. It’s not his fault—it was a fairy’s gift—but a bunch of problems unfolds out of his super-cleverness, and the solving of them makes up this tale.

If you are clever, you will find it best not to let people know it—if you want them to like you.

That sentiment of Andrew Lang still holds true. He must’ve written the story based on his personal experience.

Another favorite of mine was The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. It was a hoot. I giggled a lot and generally enjoyed this tale more than any other in the compilation. Its humor feels almost modern: a lazy dragon, partial to poetry but unwilling to fight, meets St. George, whose goal in life and legend is to slay dragons. A buffoonery ensues.

Overall, the entire collection is interesting from the historical point of view, even if its merit as reading material in the 21st century is shaky. Like the best stories of ages gone, these tales and the others like them reflected their times and paved the way for modern literature, especially the fantasy genre.

 

The original illustrations included in this book are gorgeous, and the cover, based on Walter Crane’s design, is simple and elegant.

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text 2015-05-14 19:46
ARC Review
Victorian Fairy Tales - Michael Newton

I received a copy from NetGalley for review. This in no way influenced my review. 3 stars.

I hate to say that I might not be as enchanted with fairy tales as I used to be. Otherwise, I don't know why I didn't like this more. Many of the tales I have read before; the few I hadn't were kinda meh. Don't get me wrong, this was a good collection and there was a range of tales, it just didn't click with me. The introduction was a tad lengthy, but I'm not a scholar, or particularly care about the history of fairy tales.

If you collect fairy tale books, or want a whimsy read, pick this up. Otherwise I can't really recommend this either way.

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review 2015-03-24 19:17
Book Review: Victorian Fairy Tales by Michael Newton

“Fairy tale stands for all that the Gradgrinds and the Bounderbys of the world would reject; in place of fact, calculation, and the ratio, they propose fancy and mystery; in place of a mathematical and analytical understanding, they offer affection, intuition, and strangeness.”


You won’t find any Disney-fied stories in this collection of classic Victorian tales. Think you know the story of The Three Bears? I bet you don’t remember an old woman jumping out the window and possibly breaking her neck at the end.

 

It’s a simple anthology of a good verity of Victorian fairy tales, with a long introduction that explains the differences between primitive oral fairy tales and Victorian fairy tales. Newton even explains the styles certain authors use for their fairy tales and how they contrast from others.

 

Overall Victorian Fairy Tales was a good read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys fairy tales or short stories.

 

ReadingBifrost Blog

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review 2015-02-03 15:24
Victorian Fairy Tales - Michael Newton

 

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

 

                While a few of the tales collected here have appeared in other places more than once, this is varied collection of Victorian fairy tales. The collection includes at least a few that are feminist in nature, carrying on in a Victorian fashion the work of the women writers of the French salons.   Authors ranges from the well known – such as Oscar Wilde and Thackeray - to the little known – Juliana Horatia Ewing. Andrew Lang is included, but with “Prince Prigio” as opposed to one of his retellings.

 

                At times, it is iunderstandable why some of the stories aren’t better known – such as the John Ruskin story-, but other times like with Lang’s “Prince Prigio” or Laurence Houseman’s “The Story of the Herons” it is less understandable. (“The Story of the Herons” is a stand out and wonderful story, most likely the best in the collection). Both Lang and Thackeray make slightly, and not so slight, snarky comments about storytelling and the world in which they live.

 

                Not all the stories are instructional. “The Wanderings of Arasmon” is touching but lacks, thankfully, the moral point of a few of the other tales. Included also are a story by Andersen and the Brothers Grimm as well as essays from the time about the fairy tale. This collection is good overview, combining well known and little known tales along with notes. The illustrations are nice too.

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text 2015-01-29 08:07
TBR Thursday #25
Victorian Fairy Tales - Michael Newton
The Sham - Ellen Allen
Painless - S. A. Harazin
18 Things - Jamie Ayres
Modern Rituals: The Wayward Three - J.S. Leonard
Footsteps in the Sky - Greg Keyes
Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War - Brandon R. Brown
First Activation: A Post Apocalyptic Thriller - D.A. & M.P. Wearmouth
The Last Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl
AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena - Mitchell Moffit,Greg Brown

Moonlight Reader started the TBR Thursday, and I think it's a good way to a) show what new books I've got and b) confront myself with my inability to lower my TBR. In fact, since I started recording it, it has risen significantly. I get the feeling I'm doing something wrong here...

 

Tomorrow I have my last exam and that it's one week of freedom before the next (busy) semester starts again. After two months of exams and studying I'm really looking forward to this vacation!

 

Reading this week has not been so great. I've been extremely tired (see above). I did add however more new books, even though I was trying not to. Once again less than last week (it fits in one post!) and I hope that next week I won't add new books. (But I can't promise anything).

 

TBR pile currently stands at 317. (+14)

(Netgalley ARCs at 139 (+11))

 

 

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