Told Again: Old Tales Told Again (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales) by Walter de la Mare is another 2014 release in the Oddly Modern Fairy Tales series from Princeton University Press.
So why is this a book worth noticing you may ask? Because it offers some lovely literary versions of well-known tales, ones that are suitable for all ages, but read like enjoyable short stories, more than fairy tale specimens. Walter de la Mare had a talent for this--as did Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch--and these type of rewritings were popular with the reading public when they were first published.
The tales are fully recognizable but he gives them his own spin. Little Red Riding Hood is vain, for example. The old soldier in Twelve Dancing Princesses doesn't marry a princess, but happily requests pigs for his reward. Many of the small changes and nuances are surprisingly modern in sensibility. Overall, de la Mare fills in plot holes and gives more precise motivations to characters. For example, the final paragraph in his "Sleeping Beauty" is such:
The seventh day afterwards was appointed for the marriage of the Prince and the Princess. But when word was sent far and near, bidding all the Fairy Women to the wedding--and these think no more of time than fish of water--one of them again was absent. And since--early or late--she never came, it seems that come she couldn't. At which the King and Queen heartily rejoiced. The dancing and feasting, with music of harp and pipe and drum and tabor, continued till daybreak; for, after so long a sleep, the night seemed short indeed.
This new volume also contains all of the illustrations by A. H. Watson, but the color illustrations are only rendered in black and white.
And that is why the book is special. It makes the familiar charming. Readers as young as 8 or 9 years of age will enjoy the renditions offered here and they read aloud quite beautifully, too.
Originally published in 1927, Told Again is an enchanting collection of elegant fairy tales, showcasing the formidable talents of a writer who used magical realism before the term had even been invented. Walter de la Mare (1873–1956) was one of the most celebrated writers of children’s literature during the first half of the twentieth century—so much so that W. H. Auden edited a selection of his poems and British children could recite de la Mare’s verses by heart. His abundant literary gifts can be savored once more in this new edition. With marvelous black and white illustrations by A. H. Watson, this volume includes a splendid introduction by Philip Pullman, the contemporary master of fantasy literature.
The significance of the nineteen adapted classics in Told Again lies in de la Mare’s poetic insights and graceful prose, which—as Pullman indicates in his introduction—soften and sweeten the originals, making these tales appropriate for younger readers. In “The Four Brothers,” the siblings allow the princess to choose her own husband rather than argue over her; and in “Rapunzel,” de la Mare discreetly leaves out details of the prince’s tortured, blind search for his love. Familiar stories, such as “Little Red Riding-Hood,” “Rumplestiltskin,” and “The Sleeping Beauty” are also made new through de la Mare’s expansive, descriptive, and lyrical prose. Pullman covers important details about de la Mare’s life and captures the stylistic intention behind the rewriting of these wonderful favorites.
Reviving the work of a writer who exemplified a romantic vision and imagination, Told Again is a remarkable retelling of fairy tales touched by mystery and magic.
Philip Pullman’s many books include the best-selling and award-winning children’s series, His Dark Materials (Knopf). He recently edited and introduced Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (Viking).
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations vii
The Hare and the Hedgehog 11
The Four Brothers 18
The Musicians 29
Dick Whittington 37
Cinderella and the Glass Slipper 50
The Dancing Princesses 68
Little Red Riding-Hood 81
Jack and the Beanstalk 92
The Turnip 117
The Wolf and the Fox 129
The Three Sillies 136
The Twelve Windows 170
Clever Grethel 182
The Sleeping Beauty 200
Molly Whuppie 214
Praise for previous editions:
"Walter de la Mare has given the familiar old tales so much sparkle and humor and romance that they are like new stories."--Horn Book Magazine
"The 19 familiar and long loved tales . . . reach literary heights with masterly retelling."--Chicago Daily Tribune
"There is a wealth of precise and illuminating detail. . . . And there are individual touches that only a poet would think of."--New York Times
Praise for this edition:
"This superb edition of Told Again brings a neglected work to twenty-first-century readers and is a great addition to the Oddly Modern Fairy Tales series. As Pullman’s introduction shows, the collection sheds light on a poet’s view of the wonder tale and its near relatives."--Pauline Greenhill, University of Winnipeg
"This eclectic collection of nineteen folk and fairy tales is without a doubt historically significant, and de la Mare seasons these concise and briskly paced retellings with a subtle, poetic musicality."--Mick Gowar, Anglia Ruskin University