Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley
This book is a little strange. It’s partly fiction, but the important aspects aren’t. They are, in fact, a rather good look at the sources and inspiration for Irving’s famous story, “The Headless Horseman”.
Latham portrays Washington Irving a la Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm, as a ghost or supernatural badass hunter, who relies more on his intelligence than his physical ability. It’s this part of the book that falls a little flat for the adult reader. The section might be more entertaining for a teen or pre-teen. The story itself used to frame the information that the book transmits is geared toward the younger audience, an adult might find the story amusing enough, but there is better fiction out there.
Latham makes connections between Irving’s story and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as other European traditions. There is even background itself to the area of Sleepy Hollow and early New York State history.
In short, I can see a teacher using this in a classroom to expand upon the legend of Sleepy Hollow. It also would make a good Halloween present. It also includes a further reading and viewing section.
Okay, I have to ask what the hell Phillip Pullman has against Dahl’s version of Little Red Riding Hood because I love it. We need more girls to know that version than Walter de la Mare’s.
Sorry, had to get it out of the way.
This collection is de la Mare’s retellings of famous fairy tales, mostly from the Brothers Grimm, and if you though the Grimms cleaned things up too much, you are going to think that de le Mare has some type of mental illness.
It’s strange, though, the tales that aren’t source from the Grimms tend to be the better ones. De la Mare adapts Aesop’s “Tortoise and the Hare” for the British child, making it “The Hedgehog and the Hare,” and it is a very charming tale. It’s the best one in the book. The retelling of “Bluebeard” is better too though it wanes a little at the end. De la Mare has a thing against beautiful, vain, and dumb women. Honestly, one of those shows up, you know something bad is going to happen. The retelling of Dick Whittington is good too, though the cat becomes male for some reason.
There are some beautiful descriptions in the stories.