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Saturday, 10 October 2009

Must reads - The Guardian's 'Great fairytales' series

Today sees the publication of the first of seven free little booklets of fairy tales in the Guardian. UK readers I urge you to set out into the autumn chill and pick up the paper now! Tomorrow the booklet will be with the Observer and from Monday to Friday back with the Guardian.

Today's booklet is 'Wicked Parents' and contains Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and The Tale of the Juniper Tree. They are all taken from Joyce Crick's translation of the Grimms (OUP) and beautifully illustrated with silhouettes by Laura Barrett (don't skip by this link, her website is stunning!). There's also a thoughtful afterword by Hilary Mantel, this week's Booker prize winner, which looks at the realities behind the tales in a Europe with high maternal mortality rates and the way fairy tales bring us face to face with realities we don't want to see,
'Hansel and Gretel make their way back to the couple who have tried to abandon them, and hope this time it will be different. We do not want to believe this happens in real life, but the news reports tell us it does. A casual boyfriend tortures and murders a baby while its mother stands by with, at best, glazed indifference. Normal parents cannot understand child-killers, but fairytales hold up a distorting mirror that enhances our petty guilts. There can be few mothers who, trapped with a fractious, wailing, ungrateful baby, have not wished it momentarily removed, and then become afraid of the dark powers the wish might attract.'

For readers from other countries (and those in the UK who don't want to venture out today!) the content of today's booklet is all available online here and the complete set of booklets is available to buy for £16 here. There's also lots more to look forward to over the coming week...

'Great fairytales brings you the finest stories of morality, justice, triumph and enchantment from around the world, collected in seven themes: Wicked parents, Rags to riches, Love, Quests and riddles, Wisdom and folly, Justice and punishment and Beastly tales.
The stories are all nominated by a panel of critics, writers and experts on children's literature: Anthony Browne, AS Byatt, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Robert Irwin, Alison Lurie, Adam Phillips, Philip Pullman, Salman Rushdie and Marina Warner.
Each collection is beautifully illustrated and includes an afterword from a range of leading writers exploring each theme.'
Tomorrow's booklet includes Cinderella, The Tinderbox and Mossycoat (one of my favourites!) and will feature an afterword by Philip Pullman - I can't wait!

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