The Red Fairy Book - Andrew Lang I read several of Lang's Fairy Books when I was little, and I can remember seeing a whole set of the various colored books on a bookstore shelf, and wishing that I could have them all. Buying them all was expensive, and I never remembered to try the library and look them up. However now all of them are free ebooks. Handy thing, that. [Free Gutenberg ebook link for this one.]One thing I've always loved about fairy tales is that, when an odd being comes to you repeatedly in a dream, it's perfectly ok to listen to them and do whatever they say. It's not at all a sign that you're perhaps going insane, or taking too much [insert whatever might cause people to hallucinate here]. Also people don't often get burned at the stake for witchcraft in fairy tales, which you'd think would happen quite a bit, given the history of people's reaction to magical type happenings.Random ponderings about the stories (and there are spoilers so beware):The Twelve Dancing Princesses (one of my favorites)- That the hero is a "cow-boy" and not a cow herder makes it hard for me not to giggle. Having always had Texans in the family my brain translates cowboy with a certain mental image. Except that everyone calls him Star Gazer, which my brain feels is very 1960s Psychedelia-ish. - Hero is a cow-boy, yet also feels dismissive of the village girls: "The fact was he thought them very ugly, with their sun-burnt necks, their great red hands, their coarse petticoats and their wooden shoes. He had heard that somewhere in the world there were girls whose necks were white and whose hands were small, who were always dressed in the finest silks and laces, and were called princesses, and while his companions round the fire saw nothing in the flames but common everyday fancies, he dreamed that he had the happiness to marry a princess."So while he's been out communing with the herd all day - and probably getting a sun-burnt neck - he's somehow learned to become a snob and take up weird concepts of beauty that should be foreign to him. Odd kid.- How is it that the daughters are Princesses, but their father is a Duke? Must be a localthing.- Hero, invisible, hides himself under a bed and thus can see nothing of the princesses changing into their ball gowns. ...Uh huh, like I believe that of a boy who's just been granted the power to become invisible. Suspicious:"Michael could see nothing from his hiding-place, but he could hear everything, and he listened to the princesses laughing and jumping with pleasure."Sorry, I don't believe he could hear them jumping. Moving around maybe, but jumping is awfully specific.- Something tells me we don't get to hear how these boys ended up at the magic castle:"When the cock crowed the third time the fiddles stopped, and a delicious supper was served by negro boys..."- Sending people to the tower: "For this was the way that in old times beautiful princesses got rid of people who knew too much." - from which we learn that princess aren't nice. (Yet another example.)- Wait, when/how did the cow-boy learn how to dance? It's never mentioned and then suddenly once he's dressed up is able to dance gracefully.- So this is a scene worth more than one sentence:" The rest of the princes fell likewise at the knees of the princesses, each of whom chose a husband and raised him to her side.That's 50 guys falling at the feet of 11 women, because hero gets the 12th. That took a lot of sorting out, I'll bet. Hmmm. 50/11 = 4.55, so some of the sisters didn't get an even amount of suitors. (Fairy tales and math problems - why didn't my teachers try that?!)- Enchanted castle crumbles to the ground, presumably with the "negro boy" pages inside?!?!?! (Definitely do not remember this from the version I read as a kid.)- Hero's wife, the princess, has him tell her how he discovered the secret, and once he does she has him chop down the laurel trees that helped him. Again, princesses aren't nice.The Princess Mayblossom- Multiple nurse deaths- Lock a girl in a tower and do not be surprised when she falls in love with an ambassador. This is also what happens if ambassadors dress too well.Soria Moria Castle- Sitting at home in the fireplace ashes ("grubbing" in them) is actually a way to job hunt, because then sea captains will appear offering jobs. - This is a first - not only does our hero kill the evil giant troll(s), he stays afterwards to clean up the dead body before moving on to the next killing. Which is really considerate. Seriously, I can't remember another story where the hero stops to clean up.The Death Of Koshchei The Deathless- In some stories guardians of girls are insanely picky over whom they are allowed to marry. Meanwhile in this story, the brother allows his sisters to marry birds. Who turn into men. Interesting.The Black Thief and Knight of the Glen- I've heard the word henwife but for some reason imagine the scene she's in as the queen having a discussion with a giant chicken.- A fixed card game!- Scheherazade strategy!The Master Thief- The exclamation "Hutetu" is used here, as in some of the other tales. All I can find out about it is that it's old Norse.- Odd moments in costuming:"So he dressed himself up like a bird, and threw a great white sheet over himself; broke off a goose's wings, and set them on his back; and in this attire climbed into a great maple tree which stood in the Priest's garden.And then he tells the priest that he's an angel. Because the Master Thief is that good at practical jokes.- Dead body theft!Brother And Sister- Cruel stepmother is a witch in disguise.- Beware of talking water.- Where did this girl get a "golden garter" - no mention that they're royals...- Don't let someone lock you into a bathroom. Problem is they'll pick a moment when you're weak, like when you've just given birth.- Witch burned at the stake, so it does happen sometimes.Princess Rosette- Two princes go off in search of the King of the Peacocks and leave their sister, who has been raised in a tower away from the world, to rule the kingdom. (And none of the ministers said "wait, um, stop for a minute and let's think about this" - ????)- I have now learned that the Kingdom of the Cockchafer is really all about the may beetle. Or may bug, mitchamador, billy witch, or spang beetle. Fairy tales: teaching you about entomology when you least expect it.- Phoenix feathers are a great thing to stuff mattress with as they will always float upon water. And you never know when that might be helpful.- I still feel this would have been a better story if we'd just been told where the princess found her green dog.The Enchanted Pig (oddly not listed in the contents)- If anyone is ever told "don't go/look into room X" - you know someone will go/look into it. Also there's rarely ever a reason NOT to tell them why they shouldn't check that room out, especially if there's something/someone dangerous inside. (Inside this room? A book.)- All the pigs of the world converge on this King's town, and thus he must allow the Pig-Princess marriage. You'd think we'd get more than a sentence about that massive amount of pigs, as it sounds like kind of a Big Deal.- Have you noticed that people are always certain that a creature is really an enchanted human, as opposed to an enchanted something else? For instance, what if the pig was actually an enchanted giant beetle? This is why no one should be in a rush to disenchant things.- No matter how bored you are it might not be a good idea to hail a passing witch and have her stop for a chat.- Search-quest for the beloved. Except the princess has a baby on the way, which thankfully didn't take on dad's enchanted form.- Great line: "And they ruled as only kings rule who have suffered many things."The Norka- The third king's son is a simpleton, yet he's the only one who manages to face and try to fight the Norka. This happens a lot with people who are thought to be stupid by all the other characters, who turn out to be bad at judging such things. (Time to go look up the "fool motif," huh. Or is it the clever fool?)- Note: location of "the other world" is under a large white stone.- Oddly the Norka, though some kind of beast, has beautiful sisters. Who help the king's son kill their brother. Which makes no kind of sense.- Randomly at the very end this becomes a story about tailoring.The Wonderful Birch- Even if you obey a witch's orders she can still turn you into a sheep.- Daughters recognize their mothers, no matter how they've been enchanted. (Which is less of a relief than you'd think if your stepmother makes sheep soup.)- A heroine should really be more surprised when her dead mother comes back as a tree.- Story tells me to be sorry for the witch's daughter: "It was not her fault that her mother was a witch." (Thank you for the guilt, storyteller. You could stop beating up on the daughter in the first place. Plus you turned her into a bridge. Which was not at all nice of the storyteller.)- King's son smears lots of things with tar, but it's not clear exactly what he's trying to catch. (Dude, just ask the girl to marry you.)Jack And The Beanstalk- Problem with Jack isn't that he's silly - it's that he refuses to work and thus family hasn't enough food. Not funny.- Giant and castle's backstory: he bribes a castle servant to get inside, then kills knight/owner of castle, also all the knight's children - wife and one child (Jack and mom) escape- Giants go on daily walks.- Giantess to her husband: "Now, my dear, with your leave I am going up to my room to finish the story I'm reading." - doesn't seem very monstrous, does she? But the story does insist on her being stupid.- Jack refuses the fairy's order to kill the Giantess as she was kind to him, which definitely seems the right answer. So it's handy that she dies in an accident.The Little Good Mouse- Never be rude to a dancing mouse. (Or kill one - which should go without saying.)- Fairies just want to be loved - but not in a "I love you because you will give me wishes" kind of way - and thus they're very distrustful of people's motivations.- Definitely a bit much for kids: evil king drags good queen off using her hair, threatens her with hanging multiple times and then tries to do it.- Evil king falls, breaks teeth, then tries "to mend them" - would love to know more about what this entailed...Graciosa And Percinet- Red is apparently an unattractive hair color, and so the villainess (Duchess Grumbly) dyes her hair black.- Every time the story had Prince Percinet my brain would fill in Percocet because I have read too many drug-info articles, and way too many comedians have rif'd on Percocet. However this did make the story even funnier.- Invisible princes that suddenly appear would make me suspicious. "How long have you been hanging around watching me?! Nope, you're going to have to convince me that you just got here."The Three Princesses Of Whiteland- Three princesses on the beach, buried up to their necks. Doomed to stay that way until the hero fights off three trolls. Really odd things trolls do to people in these stories. Or at last I assume the trolls buried the princesses.- The heroes in most stories seem to be very bad at listening to their wives' advice. Even when the wife is a beautiful, magical princess.The Voice Of Death- Land without death, where people hear a voice and see someone who calls them away and they never come back- Except in the story people only hear a voice and see no one. I think there's something odd going on in the translation.- They all apparently fall off a cliff and into a pit. And after everyone goes to see the pit from then on everyone there dies normally.- Not really sure what's going on here.The Six Sillies (have always hated this one)- Who is the silliest of these examples of silly people? Answer, all of them. Hero should keep moving, perhaps to another continent.- Girl that hero was thinking of marrying is 37. Which is ancient in fairy tale years, so perhaps this marks him as silly?Kari Woodengown- Warning, stepmother with ugly daughter marries King with pretty daughter. Guess who gets to herd the cows? And meets a talking blue bull? If this were a Greek myth the story would immediately go in another direction.- Magic bulls can hide things in their ears.- Girl does run away with the bull, but they're just good friends.- Multiple bull vs. troll fights- No one ever tries to negotiate with trolls.- This is one of multiple stories where trolls keep healing ointment on their person. Which heroes can then use. Which is why you should always loot dead trolls.- Once at their destination the bull tells her where to get a job (and where to live: a pig-sty) and then says she has to cut off his head with "your little knife" - pause a moment and consider that this is a large bull. Story does not mention massive amounts of blood or that princess is grossed out.- In this story the girl gets a pretty dress so she can go to church, and that's where the Prince sees her. He's the same guy that's rude to her when she wears her wooden dress, which you'd think would make him a bad choice.Drakestail- Our hero is apparently a duck.- It's not a good thing to lend money to a King, who has no reason to pay it back. (Which makes me wonder if this is actually about the French kings, who had a habit of over-spending.)- Drakestail is apparently magic because his friend the fox can ride inside his gizzard. Along with his luggage. (This storyteller is into some form of hallucinogens.)- His lady-friend is a talking ladder - and you know, I can't share any more of this, it's getting too weird...The Ratcatcher (of Hamel)- The ratcatcher plays the bagpipes and can sing in French. And can talk to rats.- After cheating the ratcatcher everyone happily goes to church without feeling the least bit hypocritical. Except for some reason they left all their children at home.The True History of Little Golden Hood- Apparently the Red Riding Hood story wasn't the accurate version.- It's still not a good idea to stop and chat with wolves you don't know.The Golden Branch- This story has tremendously fun descriptions of magic pictures and books. But.- Description of ugly prince, Curlicue: "No prince equaled him in cleverness and kindness of heart, but unfortunately he was most terribly ugly. He had crooked legs and squinting eyes, a large mouth all on one side, and a hunchback. Never was there a beautiful soul in such a frightful little body, but in spite of his appearance everybody loved him."- Description of ugly princess:"...as for the Princess she would do very well for Prince Curlicue, for she was as ugly as himself. Indeed, though she was the most amiable creature in the world, there was no concealing the fact that she was frightful, and so lame that she always went about with a crutch, and people called her Princess Cabbage-Stalk." and "...when he saw her, with a skin like a tortoise's, her thick eyebrows meeting above her large nose, and her mouth from ear to ear, he could not help crying out..."- Neither of these 'beautiful souls in ugly exterior' really sympathizes with the other or wants to meet/marry the other, based on only looking at paintings of each other. (!!!!!)- The whole trope of "you'll only be happy if your outside matches your beautiful soul" is painful. In reality people will make judgements on personality/likability based on your exterior, even now.The Three Dwarfs- People decide to remarry using really odd methods (will boot with hole fill with water?!)Dapplegrim- Name of story is the horse, who I think is the real hero.- However, Dapplegrim has human hero kill a lot of colts for him. So there's that issue.- Kings continually rewrite rules.The Enchanted Canary- One of the weirder stories.- Heavy racism: "'My faith!' cried Tubby; 'do you want to marry a negress, and give me grandchildren as ugly as monkeys and as stupid as owls?' "- Black skin is bad, but golden skin and black eyes are ok. For this one prince, anyway.The Twelve Brothers- Never understood this one, because 12 sons are supposedly to be put to death in favor of a girl. (Usually girls have less value than boys, who inherit things. And they don't mention needing to marry her to someone.)- Father ready to kill all the boys: "Then he ordered twelve coffins to be made, and filled them with shavings, and placed a little pillow in each."- Raven transformation (sometimes it's swans or geese).Rapunzel- Always makes me look up rampion.The Nettle Spinner- One of the more odd stories.- Making a Point About Evil Rulers and their power. Also the kindness of the peasant girl/spinner. (Still seems like the Count is the only one to benefit.)Farmer Weatherbeard- We never really learn exactly what Weatherbeard is, besides bad news.- Also some dad's are not good at helping their sons find jobs.- If you give an old woman some snuff on the back of her hand, she'll dance.Mother Holle- The best part (for me) is that to reach Mother Holle's land you have to fall into a well. Though I'm not big on the idea of talking bread (which I'd worry about eating).Minnikin- Weirdest part is that this is a kid who as a baby goes off to have adventures, and while still a child marries a princess. Oh and fights giant trolls and such. But seriously, a bit young to be married.Bushy Bride- It's the good/bad girl rewards thing again, except with this weirdness: "One day they sent her to the brook to fetch some water home, and an ugly and horrible head rose up out of the water, and said, 'Wash me, girl!' " And two more heads, the last of which wants a kiss. - The bush is on the bad girl: "a fir bush in the middle of her forehead"Snowdrop- Snow White story- Princes who want to keep dead girls are kinda weird, no matter how you tell it.- Final Grimm (heh) touch: "red-hot iron shoes had been prepared for the wicked old Queen, and she was made to get into them and dance."The Golden Goose- We never hear what happens to all the people stuck to the goose.- Again, parents are bad at naming - Dullhead is apparently the name he's stuck with, it's not about his intellect.The Seven Foals- Kings offer marriage to their daughters for weird tasks (here it's horse watching)- Priest doesn't seem to notice when princes that he's blessed/fed turn into horses just outside the church. - It's always freaky when enchanted animals ask people to cut their heads off.The Marvelous Musician- Musician has bias against having wolf, fox, hare as friends or pupils.- Warning, cruelty.The Story of Sigurd- First paragraph warning: sad ending (ooo spoiler!)- King wills broken sword to unborn son (vengence thing!)