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Fairy Tales & Fables

The striking thing about fairy tales is not their dissimilarity to reality, but their resemblance to life as we know it. We don't fight dragons on our way to work (though we might when we're there) or find magic lamps when we need them, but existence has its ups and downs the same as any story about witches and Princes Charming, even if they're typically less magical. But the people we see in fairy tales are very much like the people we encounter every day, people we can relate to because they experience the same victories and defeats we do.

G.K. Chesterton says in Orthodoxy that a good story used to be about a hero among dragons, while in our modern age what is considered a good story is one about a dragon among dragons. It's true—today, most serious fiction is about lonely people struggling against existential angst in a dark world of cement and automobiles, a world devoid of beauty. Perhaps the great pull of fairy tales is that they aren't serious fiction, that their characters inhabit worlds of magic and wonder, that bad guys are identified by their pointy eyebrows and wicked grins, that eggs are made of gold and princesses have hair long as a castle tower.

But, some will object, this isn't consistent with what we know. Okay, we could respond, what of it? Why must our literature reflect exactly the world we live in, with its prosaic drudgery and numbing ambiguity? Why can't we have heroes who go to the moon on horseback and rescue fair damsels with a well-placed kiss and kill ogres in epic battles beneath enchanted trees? Why shouldn't we read about gnomes and pixies and mushrooms that hold the secrets of the universe? Why do we all have to be boring old people wallowing in ennui?

Or maybe we could put it another way—how do you know there isn't gold in that huge fish too big for fishermen to catch? Are you certain your ugly and mean coworker isn't under a curse....or an evil sorcerer himself? Who's to say all those good things that happened to you last week weren't the result of finding that lucky penny on the sidewalk?Did you really just misplace your socks, or are there brownies under the couch? And when you married the love of your life, wasn't it a bit like climbing a secluded tower, Love's First Kiss, and riding off into the sunset all rolled into one?

It's interesting to note that it was scholars who preserved the old fairy tales in writing. Charles Perrault began the trend in the 17th century, and the Brothers Grimm followed in the 19th, recording what for centuries past had existed only in the minds and speech of the people. Fables (shorter fairy tales with morals blatantly attached at the end) had always been written, but fairy tales themselves were, until these chroniclers appeared, purely oral tradition.

The reason is plain—stories of the common people, they offered clearly defined morality, hopefulness, and entertainment beyond the merely mundane, all set in the context of violence, oppression and injustice they knew so well. This isn't the kind of thing that gets written down, because then it would lose its power and its capacity for refuge from the horrors of actual existence.

Fortunately for us, however, they were written down before they dropped forever into the black hole of the Past. Our lives aren't typically as fraught with danger as those of peasants in Medieval Europe or Bushmen in deepest Africa, but they are just as in need of light and even frivolity. We lose sight of the joy of the magical at the risk of losing sight of the joy of life itself. Fairy tales are nothing if they aren't magical, and less than nothing if they aren't sources of the kind of profound joy their protagonists often seem to enjoy.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.

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27 Items found Print
Aesop's Fables
by Aesop
from Henry Holt and Company
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 1st-5th grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
$8.95
Aesop's Fables
by Aesop
from Signet Classics
Fairy Tales & Fables for 10th grade-adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
$5.95 $3.00 (1 in stock)
Aesop's Fables
by Aesop, Isaac Bashevis Singer
from Nelson Doubleday, Inc.
for 7th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
$5.00 (1 in stock)
Aesop's Fables
Puffin Classics
by Aesop
Reprint from Puffin Books
for Kindergarten-4th grade
$4.99
Alex O'Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves
by Regina Doman
for 7th-10th grade
$17.00
Anno's Aesop
by Mitsumasa Anno
from Orchard Books
for Nursery-2nd grade
in Clearance: Picture Books (Location: CLE)
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Arabian Nights I
Signet Classics
by Anonymous, Richard Burton (Translator), Jack Zipes (Adapter)
from Signet Classics
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$8.95
Arabian Nights II
Signet Classics
by Anonymous, Sir Richard Burton (Translator), Jack Zipes (Adapter)
from Signet Classics
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: CLT-MED)
$8.95
Complete Fables
Penguin Classics
by Aesop
from Penguin Classics
Fables for 9th-Adult
in Ancient Literature (Location: CLT-ANC)
$13.00
Complete Fairy Tales
Penguin Classics
by George MacDonald
from Penguin Classics
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Folklore for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$17.00
Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde
Signet Classics
by Oscar Wilde
from Signet Classics
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 10th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$5.95
Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
3rd edition from Bantam Books
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Folklore for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$23.00 $12.00 (1 in stock)
Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales
by Brothers Grimm, Josef Scharl
from Pantheon Books
for 9th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus
by Joel Chandler Harris
from Houghton Mifflin
Animal Fantasy for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$28.00
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus
by Joel Chandler Harris
from Dial Press
Animal Fantasy for 7th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$40.00
Kingdom Far and Clear
Calla Edition
by Mark Helprin
from Dover Publications
for 6th-Adult
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: A07-02A)
$30.00
Little Prince
by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
from Harvest House
Fantasy for 3rd-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: CLT-20C)
$11.00
Peter and the Wolf
by Sergei Prokofiev
from Puffin Books
for Kindergarten-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
$6.99
Phantastes
by George MacDonald
from Eerdmans
for 8th-Adult
in 19th Century Literature (Location: CLT-19C)
$12.00 $8.00 (1 in stock)
Russian Fairy Tales in Russian
for 9th-Adult
in Clearance: Foreign Language (Location: BLG-03A)
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Selections from the Arabian Nights
Signet Classics
by Anonymous (translation by Richard Burton)
from Programmed Classics
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
$3.00 (1 in stock)
Sleeping Beauty
by K. Y. Craft
from Chronicle Books
for Preschool-2nd grade
$16.99
Tales from the Perilous Realm
by J. R. R. Tolkien
from Houghton Mifflin
for 7th-12th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: A07-02A)
Thematic Unit: Fairy Tales
by Jeanne King
from Teacher Created Resources
for 1st-2nd grade
$2.00 (1 in stock)
Three Bears
by Paul Galdone
from Sandpiper Books
for Nursery-1st grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
$6.95
Three Billy Goats Gruff
by Paul Galdone
from Sandpiper Books
for Nursery-1st grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
$6.95
Ugly Duckling
by Hans Christian Andersen, Jerry Pinkney
First edition from HarperCollins
for Preschool-2nd grade
2000 Caldecott Honor Book
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
$17.99