This book arrived yesterday. I have been searching for an affordable copy for some time. As you can see, it doesn't look especially fancy.
Sweet gold dragon on the cover, no dust jacket. Just simple blue cloth binding.
Then you open it up, and the first thing you see is this:
This is European Fairy Tales, compiled and translated by Dagmar Secorová, illustrated by Mirko Hanák. (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company, 1971). If you look at Hanák's Czech Wikipedia page, you will see he died of leukemia the year this book was published. What a loss. Because these are currently my favorite fairy tale illustrations, and I want to try and find as much of his work as possible.
|from "Cinderella" by Charles Perrault|
|"Cinderella" by Charles Perrault|
|"Cinderella" by Charles Perrault|
|from "Prince Bajaja" by Božena Nêmcová|
|from "The Tinder-Box" by Hans Christian Andersen|
|from "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by Petre Ispirescu|
|from "Little Red Riding Hood" by the Brothers Grimm|
|from "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm|
|"Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm|
|from "Sleeping Beauty" by the Brothers Grimm|
|from "The Three Little Pigs" by Joseph Jacobs|
|from "Jack and the Beanstalk" by Joseph Jacobs|
|from "Beauty and the Beast" by Madame de Beaumont|
|from "The Firebird" by K.J. Erben|
I've spent last night and this morning thinking about why we still read fairy tales. I love the dark, often creepier original versions of these stories, and while I don't read every one of them to my girls (no "Juniper Tree" - yet), I don't necessarily shy away from them, either. They know the sad endings to "The Little Mermaid," "The Little Match Girl," and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" (oh, Andersen! so mean with the sad stories!), they've heard the darker ending to "Snow White" (those iron shoes!) and the Grimm version of "Cinderella" where birds peck out the eyes of the wicked stepsisters. And my girls are not scarred or damaged. We discuss things. And the spookier aspects of these stories are blunted by the knowledge that these are just fairy tales, make-believe. There is a book called The Uses of Enchantment that I've been meaning to read. I first read about the book in Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter (which I love). The Uses of Enchantment delves into the reasons the original fairy tales were picked up by children in the first place, one of those reasons being that they tend to symbolically illustrate the weird fears children have on their own. I know I said I haven't read this book yet - click here to read more by someone who has - but the general idea is one I share.
And as you probably know by now, my children have a thing for darker entertainment. Especially my baby.
Last night, my baby couldn't sleep. Both girls are out of school today, so as a treat, Mr. B made out the hide-a-bed in the family room for them. They had their sleeping bags and were all set to camp out. Big Sis fell asleep quickly, but Little Sis came and tearfully tracked us down. She was scared.
"We watched that movie today and it was too scary."
I looked at her. "I'm so sorry, baby. I thought you'd seen it before!"
"But not since I was too little, Mom!" she said accusingly. "It wouldn't be so bad if it was a fiction movie!"
I tried not to smile. "But it is a fictional movie, honey. It's not even a realistic fiction." The movie was Jumanji.
"But it had scary spiders and monkeys and vines in it. And those are real things. And games are real, too!"
This is my kiddo who loves zombies right now. Who loves the real-life mummies she's seen at museums. Who loves The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, and Coraline.
She was scared of Jumanji, though, because it seemed more plausible than zombies and ghosts.
And Mom chose the movie, not realizing she would be scared. Total. Mom. Fail.
Mr. B wound up camping in the living room with the girls, where he said he held her hand as she told him how she was very, very angry they even made that movie, and how she hates every actor in that movie for making it exist.
I went to my room and thought about how sweet it was that she thought Jumanji was too realistic, while I have gone to bed lately scared of bombs and guns and fertilizer plants.
I like scary fairy tales and fantasy movies. I'm scared of what's outside my own door. And I love that what seems most real to my 5-year-old is a frightening board game come to life, and not bad guys entering her school. I love that innocence so much.
That said, Jumanji is now off-limits in this house. I'm guessing that goes for the book, too. It might remind her of the movie. And I'm the meanest mommy in the world for choosing that movie yesterday. But I love that that's all that makes her mad right now. I'll take it.
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