Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Book: The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales)

The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales) is officially released today although it has been shipping for a few weeks, I think. I received a review copy of this one from the publisher and realized I was completely unaware of the original edition. How did I miss that? It's a happy addition to my folklore library, of course.

The stories, oddly enough, reminded the most of the work of Anne Thackeray Ritchie who set her own fairy tale retellings in her current times without the magic or fantasy. There is about a fifty year gap between her work and the stories collected here which makes it all an interesting study of Britain's literary history, too. Her work is historical fiction now just as these collected stories are to us, but it's intriguing to see how past authors used fairy tales in their modern fiction. These tales are much more satirical than Ritchie, too.

Book description:

Originally issued in 1934, The Fairies Return was the first collection of modernist fairy tales ever published in England, and it marked the arrival of a satirical classic that has never been surpassed. Even today, this reimagining of fourteen timeless tales--from "Puss in Boots" to "Little Red Riding Hood"--is still fresh and bold, giving readers a world steeped not in once upon a time, but in the here and now.

Longtime favorites in this playfully subversive collection are retold for modern times and mature sensibilities. In "Jack the Giant Killer," Jack becomes a trickster who must deliver England from the hands of three ogres after a failed government inquiry. "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" is set in contemporary London and the world of financial margins and mergers. In "The Little Mermaid," a young Canadian girl with breathtaking swimming skills is lured by the temptations of Hollywood. And Cinderella becomes a spinster and holy woman, creating a very different happily ever after. These tales expose social anxieties, political corruption, predatory economic behavior, and destructive appetites even as they express hope for a better world. A new introduction from esteemed fairy-tale scholar Maria Tatar puts the collection in context.

From stockbrokers and socialites to shopkeepers and writers, the characters in The Fairies Return face contemporary challenges while living in the magical world of fairy tales.

Peter Davies (1897-1960) was the rumored inspiration for Peter Pan, the daredevil character created by his adoptive father, author J. M. Barrie. Davies was the founder of the publishing house Peter Davies Ltd. Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. She is the editor of The Annotated Peter Pan and the author of Enchanted Hunters (both Norton), among many other books.
You can read a PDF of Maria Tatar's introduction on the Princeton University Press's website to give you a preview of the book.


Maria Tatar

Jack the Giant Killer
A. E. Coppard

Godfather Death
Clemence Dane

The Fisherman and His Wife
E. M. Delafield

Little Snow-White
Lord Dunsany

Anna Gordon Keown

Sindbad the Sailor
Eric Linklater

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
A. G. Macdonell

Puss in Boots
Helen Simpson

The Little Mermaid
Lady Eleanor Smith

Little Red Riding-Hood
E. oe. Somerville

Robert Speaight

'O, If I Could but Shiver!'
Christina Stead

The Sleeping Beauty
G. B. Stern

Big Claus and Little Claus
R. J. Yeatman and W. C. Sellar

Author Biographies 365

And more about the Oddly Modern Fairy Tales edited by Jack Zipes:

Oddly Modern Fairy Tales is a series dedicated to publishing unusual literary fairy tales produced mainly during the first half of the twentieth century. International in scope, the series includes new translations, surprising and unexpected tales by well-known writers and artists, and uncanny stories by gifted yet neglected authors. Postmodern before their time, the tales in Oddly Modern Fairy Tales transformed the genre and still strike a chord.

The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales). B. Balázs; J. Zipes, et al., eds. and trans.

Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales (Oddly Modern Fairy Tales). K. Schwitters.


  1. This looks so interesting! Thanks for adding it to my radar - I'm off to update my wishlist...

  2. Why not also read my review of the book on