I’m presenting at Clockwork Alchemy this May on Fairies and the Victorians, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between folk tales and fairy tales. If there is a difference (and not everyone agrees on this), folk tales are traditional beliefs, legends, and myths passed down orally. Fairy tales are based on folk tales, sanitized or changed to fit current cultural mores.
If you’re at all interested in either, read The Complete First Edition, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
The Grimm brothers were collectors of folk tales, and their original edition, published in 1812 in Germany was just that. Dark, brutal, and unflinching, these tales recorded the oral traditions of the period. Rapunzel becomes an unwed mother. Snow White’s real mother attempts to have her killed, rather than her step mother. Families die of hunger.
A second collection, again in German, followed up in 1815. Neither of these editions were translated into English until last year. What most of us have been reading were later, sanitized versions tilted toward Christian mores — fairy tales rather than the original folklore.
This new/old book, translated by Jack Zipes and illustrated by Andrea Dezso, contains multiple versions of the same tale. The illustrations are wonderful – stark black and white, they add to the dark mystery of the book.
If you’re a writer looking for inspiration, or just love delving into the roots of these stories, you’ll love this book.