Thursday, October 25, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

A scene from The Fairy-Tale Princess: seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest by Su Blackwell.

I have a bit of an embarrassing confession. When I was a kid, I was a fairy-princess for Halloween...multiple times. I still don't quite know what a fairy-princess is...a princess from a fairy tale? Or a princess with wings? All I know is that a fairy-princess costume included a combination of tiara, wand, and satin.

Turns out that fairies - or faeries - are actually related to the earliest Halloween tradition. The Celtics believed that faeries dressed up as beggars on Samhain (what we call Halloween) and went door-to-door asking for food. Those who gave them food were given a reward and those who didn't were punished. Which turned into...trick or treat.

The origins of Halloween are steeped in tradition, in superstition and storytelling and magic. It seems natural that dressing up as characters from fairy tales, one of our oldest types of stories, became part of of how we celebrate the holiday. In the Halloween spirit, here are my recs for some great books about fairy tales.

The bicentennial edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm was just released, with an introduction by A.S. Byatt and edited by Maria Tatar (who will also be at the Boston Book Festival this weekend, along with the Booksmith). Along with the classics, like Cinderella and Rapunzel, Tatar includes a handful of stories that the Grimms felt were not for children. You could get lost for hours in this book.

A modern take on classic fairy tales, My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me is edited by founder of Fairy Tale Review, Kate Bernheimer, and includes forty short retellings of fairy tales from contemporary writers, such as Kelly Link, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Cunningham, and Neil Gaiman. The seven dwarfs stuck living together in an apartment in NYC? Yup.

And for a cool bedtime book, I love The Fairy-Tale Princess: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest by Su Blackwell. Each story is illustrated with paper cut sculptures of the scenes, with some sculpture even emerging from the pages of books. Paper cut art always blows my mind - just the amount of patience, the detail - and the work in this book is incredible. Recognize the scene above?

Happy Halloween!

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