Once upon a time A short history of fairy tale

Marina Warner, 1946-

Book - 2014

Marina Warner has loved fairy tales over her long writing career, and she explores here a multitude of tales through the ages, their different manifestations on the page, the stage, and the screen. From the phenomenal rise of Victorian and Edwardian literature to contemporary children's stories, Warner unfolds a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Li...ttle Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White and gothic interpretations such as Pan's Labyrinth. In ten succinct chapters, Marina Warner digs into a rich collection of fairy tales in their brilliant and fantastical variations, in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. She makes a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository of human understanding and culture.

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Subjects
Genres
Adaptations
Published
Oxford, United Kingdom : Oxford University Press 2014.
©2014
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxiv, 201 pages : illustrations ; 18 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-193) and index.
ISBN
9780198718659
0198718659
Main Author
Marina Warner, 1946- (author)
  • The worlds of faery : far away & down below
  • With a touch of her wand : Magic & metamorphosis
  • Voices on the page : Tales, tellers, & translators
  • Potato soup : True stories/real life
  • Childish things : pictures & conversations
  • On the couch : house-training the id
  • In the dock : Don't bet on the prince
  • Double vision : The dream of reason
  • On stage & screen : States of illusion.
Review by Choice Reviews

Scholars, teachers, and students of fairy tales have been waiting for this terrific book—a veritable Baedeker to fairyland.  A widely recognized expert on fairy tales, Warner (Birkbeck College, Univ. of London, UK) now presents a compact history delivered in fluid, bewitching prose.  Readers will grasp fairy tales in all their sensuous depth and profound pleasure, due to both the form and the content of Warner's narrative.  She opens with a prologue defining six characteristics of fairy tales.  The nine chapters that follow introduce key themes (such as metamorphosis, doubles, cannibalism, magic, the woods, talking animals, powerful/evil women) and provide a history of the main tellers of tales (Perrault, the Italians Straparola and Basile, the Grimms, Lang, et al.).  Warner also touches on fairy tale films, psychoanalytic and feminist approaches, intertextuality, illustrators, and real-life precursors to characters such as Bluebeard.  Each overarching comment on the tropes of fairy tales is followed by multiple examples, demonstrating Warner's encyclopedic knowledge of the genre.  Woven into her prose are quotations from Walter Benjamin, J. R. R. Tolkien, Angela Carter, Jorge Luis Borges, C. S. Lewis, and many others.  All of this in 180 pages!  The 16 illustrations, which are reproduced in (often muddy) black and white, are the only disappointment with the volume. Summing Up: Essential. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. --E. R. Baer, Gustavus Adolphus College Elizabeth R. Baer Gustavus Adolphus College http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.190946 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This enchanting history of fairy tales begins with their origins as stories used to transport readers or listeners to imaginative worlds without intellectual or spiritual authority. These early tales were inspired by ethnographic curiosity and religious confusion, leading to common motifs such as curses and prophecies and characters including ragamuffin orphans and penniless children, which Warner (fellow, All Souls Coll., Oxford Univ.; Stranger Magic) maintains were a reflection of societal anxiety. The author's extensive knowledge of the subject is evident as she analyzes the male-dominated world of early fairy-tale writers such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, and how female characters were often portrayed negatively (e.g., the wicked queen, the evil stepmother). Most interesting is her exploration of how the popularity of Charlotte Brontë and romanticism led to the rise of "novels of virtue" and a decline in esteem for fairy tales and the fantasy genre. Dark-hearted morality tales for adults evolved into lighthearted, illustrated tales (e.g., Alice in Wonderland) for children as the faculty of make-believe, Warner contends, became seen as a child's privilege. Later chapters evaluate the Disneyfication of tales including the "awkward heroine," as exemplified in Tangled and Frozen; and satisfactory endings, uncommon in original stories. VERDICT A thought-provoking work for fans of history, sociology, literature, and film. Warner's writing is free of theoretical jargon and will appeal to readers of all types.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal [Page 84]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

If you're looking for a brief yet thorough overview of the history of fairy tales, you've come to the right place. Rather than sticking to a strictly chronological history, Warner (Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights) offers a series of chapters focused on different themes associated with fairy tales. For example, "Voices on the Page: Tales, Tellers & Translators" examines the oral tradition, narrative speakers like Mother Goose, and the (sometimes radical) revisions of translators. "Childish Things: Pictures & Conversations" maps the evolution of fairy tale illustrations, while "On Stage & Screen: States of Illusion" highlights new methods of retelling fairy tales, from early-19th-century ballets to 20th- and 21st-century feature films. Warner argues that fairy tales "try to find the truth and give us glimpses of the greater things," not only conveying cultural values and providing clues to possible real-life events, but also allowing us to probe the psyches of previous generations. The thematic organization of chapters gives structure to Warner's arguments, but they feel out of order nevertheless, particularly because the first two chapters are the densest. As a result, the average reader may put the book down before getting to the good stuff. But anyone interested in reading about the history of tales they first encountered in childhood will be edified and entertained. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (Dec.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Drawing on well known examples both past and present, the author examines the history of fairy tales, discussing their origins and variations, their meanings and cultural influences and how they combine equal parts of fantasy, folklore and myth.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Marina Warner has loved fairy tales over her long writing career, and she explores here a multitude of tales through the ages, their different manifestations on the page, the stage, and the screen. From the phenomenal rise of Victorian and Edwardian literature to contemporary children's stories, Warner unfolds a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Little Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White and gothic interpretations such as Pan's Labyrinth. In ten succinct chapters, Marina Warner digs into a rich collection of fairy tales in their brilliant and fantastical variations, in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. She makes a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository of human understanding and culture.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Explores classical and modern fairy tales to argue that fairy tales are a mirror of human understanding and culture.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From wicked queens, beautiful princesses, elves, monsters, and goblins to giants, glass slippers, poisoned apples, magic keys, and mirrors, the characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over readers and audiences, both adults and children, for centuries. These fantastic storieshave travelled across cultural borders and been passed on from generation to generation, ever-changing, renewed with each re-telling. Few forms of literature have greater power to enchant us and rekindle our imagination than a fairy tale. But what is a fairy tale? Where do they come from and what do they mean? What do they try and communicate to us about morality, sexuality, and society? The range of fairy tales stretches across great distances and time; their history is entangled with folklore and myth and their inspiration draws onideas about nature and the supernatural, imagination and fantasy, psychoanalysis, and feminism. Marina Warner has loved fairy tales over a long writing life and in Once Upon a Time, she explores a multitude of tales through the ages, their different manifestations on the page, the stage, and the screen. From the phenomenal rise of Victorian and Edwardian literature to contemporary children'sstories, Warner unfolds a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Little Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White and gothic interpretationssuch as Pan's Labyrinth. In 10 succinct chapters, Marina Warner digs into a rich hoard of fairy tales in their brilliant and fantastical variations in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. Her book makes a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository ofhuman understanding and culture.