Adapted from Joseph Jacob’s English Fairy Tales.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack who was sent out into the world by his parents with a large cursed cake and a golden snuff box, the former from his mother who was both sad and angry to see him leave and the latter from his father who told him never to open the golden snuff box unless he be on the verge of death.
Jack wandered very far and ate his way through the entire cursed cake before arriving one day at a tavern. Having run out of cursed cake, Jack was quite hungry and was pleased to make the acquaintance of the pretty barmaid. The pretty barmaid fed him heartily and, over ale and pie, they fell madly in love.
Unfortunately for Jack, the pretty barmaid was no free agent and, as most girls in such stories do, had a disagreeable father. The disagreeable father did not appreciate penniless Jack making eyes at his pretty daughter and told Jack that, if he wanted her hand, he should make a lake and the largest warship in the world appear outside the tavern by morning. If he failed in this, he would lose not only the girl, but his life.
Jack decided this was a close to death as he was like to get and whipped out his father’s golden snuff box. The moment he tipped open the lid, three little red men popped out and asked him what they could do to help. He told them he needed a lake and a big warship. “Easy peesy,” said the three little red men and it was done. (more…)
For my post this week, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate fairy tale illustrations. In my humble opinion, they are often the most beautiful and evocative illustrations provided in books, perhaps because of the inherent magic and creativity of the stories themselves.
There about a million wonderful illustrators I could call out, but I’m just going to touch on my favorites and hopefully you all will chime in with yours!
Remember back in the day when you checked a book out of the library and they stamped it so you would know when it’s due?
And remember even before that when you checked a book out of the library, you had to sign the card next to the date?
It’s little touches like these that I miss about modern libraries. In modern libraries, the continuity of readership is snipped before its inception by removing any evidence of past readers from the physical book. (more…)
It’s back! Launching this very week, Fairy Tale Friday is now a weekly meme hosted by us here at Literary Transgressions and Books4Learning. Everyone is invited to join in the discussion and/or share a related blog post.
You can participate on your blog in several different ways:
1. Join in the weekly theme (when offered) by writing about some aspect of it or sharing a related story.
2. Share a favorite or recently read myth, legend, or fairy tale book—fractured, traditional, or modern.
3. Deconstruct fairy tales in general or a particular one.
4. Unearth a “forgotten” myth, legend, or fairy tale and write about it.
Rewrite a traditional tale or share your own original myth, legend, or fairy tale.
Whatever you chose to post about, make sure to link your post up to the weekly Fairy Tale Friday Round-up (alternating between Books4Learning and us) and add the Fairy Tale Friday badge (above).
I can’t say I went into Rosemary Mahoney’s excellent Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff completely unbiased. The book may well be the first book about contemporary Egypt I’ve ever read and my first book about rowing and, sure, I’d never heard of Mahoney before picking up the book, so there are a few reasons I ought to have gone into Down the Nile with no pretensions or expectations.
But, the plain truth be told, I’m an Egyptian travel narrative junkie. I can’t get enough of them, particularly female-authored Victorian travel narratives of Egypt.
Late in her book, Mahoney quotes early Egyptian traveler Charles Sonnini, who wrote in 1777, that,
“…this frequence of travelers cannot exclude my pretension to a place among the rest, and I am not to be deterred from speaking of Egypt by the number or renown of those who have trodden the ground before me … Objects do not present themselves to all observers under the same point of view.”
And perhaps that is why I’m so drawn to the form, as much as why people throughout time cannot seem to stop writing about Egypt—objects do not present themselves to all observers under the same point of view. Egypt has, for all intents and purposes, been the same tourist destination for centuries (same sites, same ruins, same tombs, etc.), but people keep writing about it, as if the Sphinx will somehow be better understood for one more description of it. (more…)
Per my earlier chagrin at forgetting how excellent nonfiction can be, I got me to a library a couple of weeks back and scoured the nonfiction shelves, purposelessly abandoning myself to the serendipitous library gods. Happily, they did not fail me and I came up with the wonderful A Dog’s History of America: How Our Best Friend Explored, Conquered, and Settled a Continent by Mark Derr.
First of all, it’s a great topic and one which I feel has been too often neglected by historians. The topic of dogs in history appears universally derided as a fluff-topic, best confined to the little coffee-table books on offer by the check-out (probably next to things like Inspirational, Famous & Hilarious Quotes About Dogs and You Know Your Dog Owns You If…).
But this shouldn’t be! Dogs, by virtue of being humankind’s constant companions for the better part of human history, have been present at practically every meaningful historic moment, big and small, and have inserted themselves into the narrative of history even as established History refused them access.
Mark Derr to the rescue, ladies and gents, and not a moment too soon. (more…)
In the first flush of excitement at being out of graduate school, I read a good deal of unabashedly fluffy stuff this past autumn. I’ll be posting reviewlets of these books for the next few weeks.
Geraldine Brooks appears to have a gift for writing pleasing books. They aren’t extraordinary, they aren’t fall-off-your-chair-amazing, and they certainly aren’t anywhere in the realm of bad, they are simply lovely. To very pleasant effect, her books combine an enjoyable writing style with intense historical research (which is, of course, so well-done that you don’t even notice how much effort she must have put into it) and plain old good plotting. (more…)