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The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales

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Most people think of fairy tales as having been created anonymously and almost magically long ago, and later discovered and recorded by scholars such as the Brothers Grimm. In fact original fairy tales are still being written. Over the last century and a half many well-known authors have used the characters and settings and themes of traditional tales such as 'Cinderella', Most people think of fairy tales as having been created anonymously and almost magically long ago, and later discovered and recorded by scholars such as the Brothers Grimm. In fact original fairy tales are still being written. Over the last century and a half many well-known authors have used the characters and settings and themes of traditional tales such as 'Cinderella', 'Hansel and Gretel', and 'Beauty and the Beast' to produce new and characteristic works of wonder and enchantment. The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales brings together forty of the best of these stories by British and American writers from John Ruskin and Nathaniel Hawthorne to I. B. Singer and Angela Carter. These tales are full of princes and princesses, witches and dragons and talking animals, magic objects, evil spells, and unexpected endings. Some of their authors, like John Ruskin and Oscar Wilde, use the form to point a social or spiritual moral; others such as Jeanne Desy and Richard Kennedy, turn the traditional stories inside out to extraordinary effect. James Thurber, Bernard Malamud, and Donald Barthelme, among many others, bring the characters and plots of the traditional fairy tale into the contemporary world to make satiric comments on modern life. The literary skill, wit, and sophistication of these stories appeal to an adult audience, even though some of them were originally written for children. They include light-hearted comic fairy stories like Charles Dickens's 'The Magic Fishbone' and L. F. Baum's 'The Queen of Quok', thoughtful and often moving tales like Lord Dunsany's 'The Kith of the Elf Folk' and Philip K. Dick's 'The King of the Elves', and profoundly disturbing ones like Lucy LaneClifford's 'The New Mother', and Ursula Le Guin's 'The Wife's Story'. Together they prove that the fairy tale is not only one of the most popular and enduring forms, but a significant and continually developing part of literature. Uncle David's nonsensical story about giants and fairies / Catherine Sinclair -- Feathertop / Nathaniel Hawthorne -- The King of the Golden River / John Ruskin -- The story of Fairyfoot / Frances Browne -- The light princess / George MacDonald -- The magic fishbone / Charles Dickens -- A toy princess / Mary De Morgan -- The new mother / Lucy Lane Clifford -- Good luck is better than gold / Juliana Horatia Ewing -- The apple of contentment / Howard Pyle -- The griffin and the minor canon / Frank Stockton -- The selfish giant / Oscar Wilde -- The rooted lover / Laurence Housman -- The song of the morrow / Robert Louis Stevenson -- The reluctant dragon / Kenneth Grahame -- The book of beasts / E. Nesbit -- The Queen of Quok / L.F. Baum -- The magic ship / H.G. Wells -- The Kith of the elf-folk / Lord Dunsany -- The story of Blixie Bimber and the power of the gold buckskin whincher / Carl Sandburg -- The lovely myfanwy / Walter De la Mare -- The troll / T.H. White -- Gertrude's child / Richard Hughes -- The unicorn in the garden / James Thurber -- Bluebeard's daugher / Sylvia Townsend Warner -- The chaser / John Collier -- The King of the elves / Philip K. Dick -- In the family / Naomi Mitchison -- The jewbird / Bernard Malamud -- Menaseh's dream / I.B. Singer -- The glass mountain / Donald Barthelme -- Prince Amilec / Tanith Lee -- Petronella / Jay Williams -- The man who had seen the rope trick / Joan Aiken -- The courtship of Mr Lyon / Angela Carter -- The princess who stood on her own two feet / Jeanne Desy -- The wife's story / Ursula Le Guin -- The river maid / Jane Yolen -- The porcelain man / Richard Kennedy -- Old man Potchikoo / Louise Erdrich


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Most people think of fairy tales as having been created anonymously and almost magically long ago, and later discovered and recorded by scholars such as the Brothers Grimm. In fact original fairy tales are still being written. Over the last century and a half many well-known authors have used the characters and settings and themes of traditional tales such as 'Cinderella', Most people think of fairy tales as having been created anonymously and almost magically long ago, and later discovered and recorded by scholars such as the Brothers Grimm. In fact original fairy tales are still being written. Over the last century and a half many well-known authors have used the characters and settings and themes of traditional tales such as 'Cinderella', 'Hansel and Gretel', and 'Beauty and the Beast' to produce new and characteristic works of wonder and enchantment. The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales brings together forty of the best of these stories by British and American writers from John Ruskin and Nathaniel Hawthorne to I. B. Singer and Angela Carter. These tales are full of princes and princesses, witches and dragons and talking animals, magic objects, evil spells, and unexpected endings. Some of their authors, like John Ruskin and Oscar Wilde, use the form to point a social or spiritual moral; others such as Jeanne Desy and Richard Kennedy, turn the traditional stories inside out to extraordinary effect. James Thurber, Bernard Malamud, and Donald Barthelme, among many others, bring the characters and plots of the traditional fairy tale into the contemporary world to make satiric comments on modern life. The literary skill, wit, and sophistication of these stories appeal to an adult audience, even though some of them were originally written for children. They include light-hearted comic fairy stories like Charles Dickens's 'The Magic Fishbone' and L. F. Baum's 'The Queen of Quok', thoughtful and often moving tales like Lord Dunsany's 'The Kith of the Elf Folk' and Philip K. Dick's 'The King of the Elves', and profoundly disturbing ones like Lucy LaneClifford's 'The New Mother', and Ursula Le Guin's 'The Wife's Story'. Together they prove that the fairy tale is not only one of the most popular and enduring forms, but a significant and continually developing part of literature. Uncle David's nonsensical story about giants and fairies / Catherine Sinclair -- Feathertop / Nathaniel Hawthorne -- The King of the Golden River / John Ruskin -- The story of Fairyfoot / Frances Browne -- The light princess / George MacDonald -- The magic fishbone / Charles Dickens -- A toy princess / Mary De Morgan -- The new mother / Lucy Lane Clifford -- Good luck is better than gold / Juliana Horatia Ewing -- The apple of contentment / Howard Pyle -- The griffin and the minor canon / Frank Stockton -- The selfish giant / Oscar Wilde -- The rooted lover / Laurence Housman -- The song of the morrow / Robert Louis Stevenson -- The reluctant dragon / Kenneth Grahame -- The book of beasts / E. Nesbit -- The Queen of Quok / L.F. Baum -- The magic ship / H.G. Wells -- The Kith of the elf-folk / Lord Dunsany -- The story of Blixie Bimber and the power of the gold buckskin whincher / Carl Sandburg -- The lovely myfanwy / Walter De la Mare -- The troll / T.H. White -- Gertrude's child / Richard Hughes -- The unicorn in the garden / James Thurber -- Bluebeard's daugher / Sylvia Townsend Warner -- The chaser / John Collier -- The King of the elves / Philip K. Dick -- In the family / Naomi Mitchison -- The jewbird / Bernard Malamud -- Menaseh's dream / I.B. Singer -- The glass mountain / Donald Barthelme -- Prince Amilec / Tanith Lee -- Petronella / Jay Williams -- The man who had seen the rope trick / Joan Aiken -- The courtship of Mr Lyon / Angela Carter -- The princess who stood on her own two feet / Jeanne Desy -- The wife's story / Ursula Le Guin -- The river maid / Jane Yolen -- The porcelain man / Richard Kennedy -- Old man Potchikoo / Louise Erdrich

30 review for The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    This has been my sleep companion for some time - takes longer if you only manage a paragraph a night, but its a good one. I'd never read the Reluctant Dragon (sad, I know...). The stories are in 'chronological' order, so in a sense its a history of fairy tales. The oldest is from 1839, and was much sillier than I'd expected. No idea why - it had not occurred to me that people were silly in 1839, I guess. Clearly, something lacking in our approach to history. Some were familiar and comfortable, li This has been my sleep companion for some time - takes longer if you only manage a paragraph a night, but its a good one. I'd never read the Reluctant Dragon (sad, I know...). The stories are in 'chronological' order, so in a sense its a history of fairy tales. The oldest is from 1839, and was much sillier than I'd expected. No idea why - it had not occurred to me that people were silly in 1839, I guess. Clearly, something lacking in our approach to history. Some were familiar and comfortable, like fairy tales should be, especially at bedtime - Selfish Giant, The Light Princess, King of the Golden River. Some of the authors were familiar - Kenneth Grahame, T.H. White, Tanith Lee...actually, more than I expected. I enjoyed the alternative perspectives of Bluebeard's Daughter - the Lang version is rather scary and bloody, and this provided a MUCH different perspective on Bluebeard's private life. At this very moment, I enjoyed Petronella and The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet most. Very fond of the Courtship of Mr Lyon and King of the Elves, though. Of course, that will change the next go-around.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    Fairy tales (that often don’t have a single fairy in them) old and new dot the pages of this book. If anyone has read the modern graphic novels in the “Fables” series, they will recognize the character of Feathertop from this story, a patchwork scarecrow made of sticks, ragged finery and a withered pumpkin. This story was created by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he of “The Scarlet Letter” fame, and tells the moral of how the world is filled with stuffed men with no more sense than a pumpkinhead and how s Fairy tales (that often don’t have a single fairy in them) old and new dot the pages of this book. If anyone has read the modern graphic novels in the “Fables” series, they will recognize the character of Feathertop from this story, a patchwork scarecrow made of sticks, ragged finery and a withered pumpkin. This story was created by Nathaniel Hawthorne, he of “The Scarlet Letter” fame, and tells the moral of how the world is filled with stuffed men with no more sense than a pumpkinhead and how society will worship these false idols. There is something for everybody in this book, for it is not filled merely with tales for children but with fanciful, grim, thought-provoking, eye-popping or humorous stories for young and old. Morals on greed, selfishness, thoughtlessness, idleness are also here, coming off as preachy sermons rather than tales meant to amuse. Not all stories may be to the reader’s liking. But there is something of good or interest to be taken from them all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Edoardo Albert

    A wonderful collection of stories, all worth reading and a number truly extraordinary. The New Mother by Lucy Lane Clifford may be the creepiest story I've ever read, the Kith of the Elf Folk by Lord Dunsany is as wild and unpredictable and haunting as its protagonist. The older, Victorian and Edwardian stories are the stranger ones though, the modern ones being more riffs on familiar themes, but those old stories carry the scent of the unexpected and, indeed, of faerie itself. A wonderful collection of stories, all worth reading and a number truly extraordinary. The New Mother by Lucy Lane Clifford may be the creepiest story I've ever read, the Kith of the Elf Folk by Lord Dunsany is as wild and unpredictable and haunting as its protagonist. The older, Victorian and Edwardian stories are the stranger ones though, the modern ones being more riffs on familiar themes, but those old stories carry the scent of the unexpected and, indeed, of faerie itself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bailey Peyton

    No, the eyes don't deceive; that is a five star! And for an anthology no less. Be warned: the book doesn't include modern fairy tales, but rather fairy tales/homages to the genre penned by modern and post-modern writers. This book has been on my TBR for an embarrassingly long time (honestly, I think it was the first, if not one of the first, I added when I got on Goodreads three years ago). But it was out of stock, too rich for my blood, you know the drill. The reason for the five stars is the q No, the eyes don't deceive; that is a five star! And for an anthology no less. Be warned: the book doesn't include modern fairy tales, but rather fairy tales/homages to the genre penned by modern and post-modern writers. This book has been on my TBR for an embarrassingly long time (honestly, I think it was the first, if not one of the first, I added when I got on Goodreads three years ago). But it was out of stock, too rich for my blood, you know the drill. The reason for the five stars is the quality/various topics were discussed in much the same manor from story to story without growing stale. The subjects ran the gambit from bewitched scarecrows brought to life seeking love, enchanted objects, princes, princesses, misunderstood monsters, dragons who long to put on the Ritz, even a little satire and horror gems sneak in. As always, here are the ones that had me thoroughly enchanted: *"Feathertop"-Nathaniel Hawthorne *"The Story of Fairyfoot"- Frances Browne *"A Toy Princess"-Mary de Morgan *"The Apple of Contentment"-Howard Pyle *"The Griffin and the Minor Cannon"-Frank Stockton *"The Song of the Morrow"-Robert Louis Stevenson *"The Rooted Lover"-Laurence Housman *"The Reluctant Dragon"-Kenneth Grahame *"The Story of Bilxie Bimber and the Power of the Gold Buckskin Whincher"-Carl Sandburg *"The Unicorn in the Garden"-James Thurber *"Bluebeard's Daughter"-Sylvia Townsend Warner *"The Chaser"-John Collier *"Prince Amilec"-Tanith Lee *"Petronella"-Jay Williams *"The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet"-Jeanne Desy *"The Wife's Story"-Ursula Guin *"The River Maid"-Jane Yolen *"The Porcelain Man"-Richard Kennedy Quite the list, I know. But when I love a story, I want anyone who stumbles across my review to see it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Oksana the Bookaholic

    When I hear the word fairy tale, I envision something like this : And in the end: Maybe because I grew up reading stories like Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk, I think fairy tales should have a happy ending and a MEANING, however simple it may be. Likewise, the words "Modern Fairy Tales" snagged me. Ooh! Some modern stories! Lets cuddle up on my bed and read! Best book ever! NOT. First of all, the word "modern" is a huge lie. The words were so old-fashioned I couldn't understand what the st When I hear the word fairy tale, I envision something like this : And in the end: Maybe because I grew up reading stories like Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk, I think fairy tales should have a happy ending and a MEANING, however simple it may be. Likewise, the words "Modern Fairy Tales" snagged me. Ooh! Some modern stories! Lets cuddle up on my bed and read! Best book ever! NOT. First of all, the word "modern" is a huge lie. The words were so old-fashioned I couldn't understand what the story was going on about sometimes. Also, these weren't FAIRY TALES, they were screwed up stories that couldn't get published because of their awfulness. So somebody took all those really lame stories so people like me could do this: [image error] Just imagining stomping this book to pieces puts me in SUCH a good mood! But I'm not, because it's a library book. Let me go blow off my steam...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    "The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales" is exactly what it says it is - a book of modern fairy tales. And, what is a modern fairy tale, you ask? It's pretty much the same as a traditional fairy tale. There's one or two with a dragon, one with a nymph, a few with fairies, a lot with princes and princesses, etc. But a modern fairy tale has a modern twist to it. "The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet" is a fantastic feminist story about a princess who changes everything about herself so a prince "The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales" is exactly what it says it is - a book of modern fairy tales. And, what is a modern fairy tale, you ask? It's pretty much the same as a traditional fairy tale. There's one or two with a dragon, one with a nymph, a few with fairies, a lot with princes and princesses, etc. But a modern fairy tale has a modern twist to it. "The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet" is a fantastic feminist story about a princess who changes everything about herself so a prince will love her (she stops standing so he can enjoy being taller than her and stops talking because he doesn't like it when she talks), realizes that the prince is kind of a jackass, dumps him, and ends up happily married anyway. Ursula LeGuin's "The Wife's Story" is super awesome and I can't tell you anything about it without giving the whole thing away. The modern fairy tales, like the traditional fairy tales, teach a lesson. And the modern fairy tales, many of them, are better than the traditional fairy tales.

  7. 5 out of 5

    LobsterQuadrille

    This book has fairy tales of all kinds, written from 1839 to 1989. There are various authors, some of the most famous being Charles Dickens, Carl Sandburg, Jane Yolen, T.H. White, Kenneth Grahame, Oscar Wilde, and E. Nesbit. The stories in this book are often very creative twists on traditional fairy tales, though some are more interesting than others. One of the stories, "The Glass Mountain", made very little sense and was simply confusing, while the last story, "Old Man Potchikoo", was just pl This book has fairy tales of all kinds, written from 1839 to 1989. There are various authors, some of the most famous being Charles Dickens, Carl Sandburg, Jane Yolen, T.H. White, Kenneth Grahame, Oscar Wilde, and E. Nesbit. The stories in this book are often very creative twists on traditional fairy tales, though some are more interesting than others. One of the stories, "The Glass Mountain", made very little sense and was simply confusing, while the last story, "Old Man Potchikoo", was just plain gross. But there were enough profound and delightful stories to make up for these two sub-par ones. My personal favorites were "The Magic Fishbone", "The Griffin and the Minor Canon", "Petronella", "Prince Amilec", "King of the Elves", and "Gertrude's Child". I also liked "The New Mother", but it had a really creepy ending that made me regret reading it late at night. Still, I really enjoyed this unusual story collection, and would definitely reread some of the stories.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    I absolutely love the authors' sophisticated, contemplative style of writing and the selection of stories with the most unusual flavor of plotlines, while still retaining that wonderful, magical fairytale feeling. I absolutely love the authors' sophisticated, contemplative style of writing and the selection of stories with the most unusual flavor of plotlines, while still retaining that wonderful, magical fairytale feeling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    Buy it!! Griffins, faeries, goblins, reluctant dragons and a princess who's lost her gravity. Genius! Buy it!! Griffins, faeries, goblins, reluctant dragons and a princess who's lost her gravity. Genius!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Read it and creep

  11. 4 out of 5

    Isabel

    When we were younger my mom used to read us stories from this book every time we went to Block Island.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julianne

    I'm still reading this but I love it so much and keep dipping into it and re-reading stories. It includes my favourite fairy tale ever, "The Princess Who Stood On Her Own Two Feet" by Jeanne Desy. I'm still reading this but I love it so much and keep dipping into it and re-reading stories. It includes my favourite fairy tale ever, "The Princess Who Stood On Her Own Two Feet" by Jeanne Desy.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    I wish I could rate each of the stories separately, as some I loved, and some I wasn't so keen on (as always with collections like this). I wish I could rate each of the stories separately, as some I loved, and some I wasn't so keen on (as always with collections like this).

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    A quality book with quality stories from 1839 to 1995. I think favorite was The Apple of Contentment (1886). My least favorite was probably The Light Princess (1864), mainly because it copped out of a sacrifice. The options were sacrifice the prince and fill the lake or save the prince and let the lake dry out. You can't both save the prince and fill the lake. It's a minor issue really. Overall, amazing book with great stories. A quality book with quality stories from 1839 to 1995. I think favorite was The Apple of Contentment (1886). My least favorite was probably The Light Princess (1864), mainly because it copped out of a sacrifice. The options were sacrifice the prince and fill the lake or save the prince and let the lake dry out. You can't both save the prince and fill the lake. It's a minor issue really. Overall, amazing book with great stories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    Worth it just for the horror of 'The New Mother'. Worth it just for the horror of 'The New Mother'.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    {old notes} Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon: (200) Banquets are always pleasant things, consisting mostly, as they do, of eating and drinking; but the specially nice thing about a banquet is that it comes when something's over, and there's nothing more to worry about, and tomorrow seems a long way off. T.H. White The Troll (282) Life is such unutterable hell, solely because it is sometimes beautiful. If we could only be miserable all the time, if there could be no such thing as love or beau {old notes} Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon: (200) Banquets are always pleasant things, consisting mostly, as they do, of eating and drinking; but the specially nice thing about a banquet is that it comes when something's over, and there's nothing more to worry about, and tomorrow seems a long way off. T.H. White The Troll (282) Life is such unutterable hell, solely because it is sometimes beautiful. If we could only be miserable all the time, if there could be no such thing as love or beauty or faith or hope, if i could be absolutely certain that my love would never be returned: how much more simple life would be. One could plod through the Siberian Salt mines of existence without being bothered about happiness. Unfortunately, the happiness is there. There is always the change (about eight hundred and fifty to one) that another heart will come to mine. I can't help hoping and keeping faith, and loving beauty. Quite frequently I am not so miserable as it would be wise to be. And there, for my poor father sitting on his boulder above the snow, was stark happiness beating at the gates.

  17. 4 out of 5

    MaryBliss

    Historically, this is a very interesting collection to read as the values and artistry in each author's work reflected the literary and cultural leanings of the era in which it was written as well as the author's individual style. All of them are well crafted. This is a collection gathered for adults. Some of the stories were written with a young audience in mind but many were simply written as artistry for adults, so this collection will be of more interest to someone interested in the history o Historically, this is a very interesting collection to read as the values and artistry in each author's work reflected the literary and cultural leanings of the era in which it was written as well as the author's individual style. All of them are well crafted. This is a collection gathered for adults. Some of the stories were written with a young audience in mind but many were simply written as artistry for adults, so this collection will be of more interest to someone interested in the history of the development of short fairy tales since the mid 1800s than it will be to a young reader who enjoys a good fairy tale. As an adult reader there are some tales that I think would be fun to share with a child and some that I think would clearly just leave the child puzzled. It is a collection that I enjoyed reading and found historically intriguing but it was not compelling enough that I will save it to reread again, though I may someday look up H.G. Wells' "The Magic Shop" again to share with someone who loves a young boy with an imagination.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    OK, I admit it. I never stopped reading Fairy Tales. Never will, either, as long as books like this one come out. A first-rate collection of some new, some old favorites. All the Victorian gems are there - Dickens' Magic Fishbone,The Light Princess by George MacDonald, some great dragon stories like Stockton's The Griffin and the Minor Canon, and E. Nesbit as well, but there were delightful surprises like Sylvia Townsend Warner's Bluebeard's Daughter. A gem of a book! OK, I admit it. I never stopped reading Fairy Tales. Never will, either, as long as books like this one come out. A first-rate collection of some new, some old favorites. All the Victorian gems are there - Dickens' Magic Fishbone,The Light Princess by George MacDonald, some great dragon stories like Stockton's The Griffin and the Minor Canon, and E. Nesbit as well, but there were delightful surprises like Sylvia Townsend Warner's Bluebeard's Daughter. A gem of a book!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    An interesting and entertaining selection.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Morag Gray

    A comprehensive collection of 19th and 20th century fairy tale,; some familiar, others less so. An enjoyable read for fairy tales fans of all ages.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    Like a box of chocolates. Some I enjoyed more than others, and I didn't eat them all. I especially loved Sylvia's Townsend Warner's "Bluebeard's Daughter." Like a box of chocolates. Some I enjoyed more than others, and I didn't eat them all. I especially loved Sylvia's Townsend Warner's "Bluebeard's Daughter."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Endless enjoyment and insight from these diverse authors drawn to a mythical style of expression. They are teaching me a lot about how to write a good modern fairy tale.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Larissa

    Some of the stories were amazing and some of them were rather strange. They're perfect for 5 minute breaks. Some of the stories were amazing and some of them were rather strange. They're perfect for 5 minute breaks.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Annie Grigg

    Fun stories. Not too long but always got their moral across. Easy to follow.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sanika

    I loved the different stories that make up the book and the lessons it teaches you about things and just life in general.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cat

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nettem Ashoknaidu

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adina

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

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