I was looking for something else--not even fairy tale related, but Amazon knows me too well--when I saw this ebook pop up in my recommendations the other day. If I was one who squeeed, I would have squeeed when I saw it. Moments like this make me grateful to live in the digital age. Back in the bad old days, I hunted and hunted for this book. It was out of print. It was hard to find. I ended up getting a copy through interlibrary loan and copying it so I could write notes in it. I would have bought a copy if I could have found one although a used one wouldn't have contributed to Farjeon or her estate either way.
So what I love about our digital age--besides carrying a thousand books with me on a trip or even on my phone!--is that nothing really ever has to go out of print again. Of course, there is the backlog of books from 1923 to roughly 2008 which may or may not ever be digitized, but each time one is, I feel a little bit of triumph on behalf of its creator(s). And more and more are appearing, albeit at a turtle's pace, so I have little bits of jubilation every week.
Obviously, the book is The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon which was originally published in 1955, a novel based upon Farjeon's 1944 play of the same name. Farjeon was one of the best known fairy tale retellers of the mid 20th century. She was a kindred spirit to readers here--one of her earliest books was a nonfiction title about Arthur Rackham. She also was the first person to receive the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Writing. She shared our loves here at SurLaLune.
Farjeon's publishing career began before 1923 so some of her books are available for free online, one of her fan favorites is Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard which is a free download on most bookseller sites. I included an excerpt from it in my Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World (SurLaLune Fairy Tale Series) where I was charmed by the story. I wrote this brief introduction to "The Imprisoned Princess":
The following story can be found in Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon, considered to be one of Farjeon’s best books in her long and successful career. The book is a collection of six stories told by Martin Pippin as he tries to coax six maidens to give him the keys to a wellhouse where Gillian has been locked away by her father from her lover, Robin Rue. Thus the entire novel is an imprisoned princess tale and this is the final of the six stories framed within it. Farjeon also wrote novel-length versions of Cinderella (The Glass Slipper) and Rumpelstiltskin (The Silver Curlew).You may have never read her work before but you have heard her words if you've ever heard Morning Has Broken popularized by Cat Stevens. She wrote the lyrics to the popular hymn. You can read more about her life at, yes, Wikipedia.
Anyway, Farjeon is worth a visit and now it's easier to make one. Most of her work shows a strong folklore influence. She herself influenced many authors and others who came after her and she has been mentioned by name by filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle) as an important early influence. Kate Forsyth, an author featured here on SurLaLune before, wrote a wonderful post about Farjeon earlier this year. Forsyth even named her daughter for Farjeon.
Book description for The Glass Slipper:
More than anything, Ella wants to go to the ball at the Royal Palace.
But Ella is the slave of the household, waiting on every wish and whim of her horrible stepsisters. They call her Cinderella for the ashes that cling to her face, hands and hair. How can Ella go to the Royal palace?
Then, on the evening of the ball, something wonderful happens. Ella's Fairy godmother comes to her rescue.
Now her dreams may come true at last . . .
Now I just hope this one sells well enough for her publisher to warrant releasing The Silver Curlew, Farjeon's retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. We have so few Rumpelstiltskin retellings of note in novel length and this one deserves to be remembered, too.