08 May 2012

All those other fairytales...

So everyone knows fairytales.  Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Snow White and the Huntsman...

Odds are good that there'll be a few people who can't name many more.  Most will also produce Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant-killer, the Nine Dancing Princesses, the Princess and the Pea, Three Billy Goats Gruff, the Three Little Pigs...Donkeyskin...Snow White, Blood Red...  And then we'll begin to peter out, different people coming up with a few more suggestions.  You'd think that there were only twenty or thirty fairytales out there.

With my memory, I couldn't really claim to name dozens off the top of my head.  But I was lucky enough in my teens to stumble across the collections of Ruth Manning-Sanders, which exposed me to so many more.  Manning-Sanders collected fairytales from all around the world (though with a preponderance of European tales) in books with names like A Book of Sorcerers and Spells and A Book of Enchantments and Curses.  Bizarrely, libraries liked to keep these gems in the reference collection where few were likely to find them - but that worked out well for me!  No competition.

Not only did I discover that there were a great many fairytales which feature Girls Doing Stuff (usually rescuing princes), but the Manning-Sanders collections were taken to an extra level by the illustrations of Robin Jacques.

Frontispiece, A Book of Charms and Changelings
Delicate, detailed, beautiful and gruesome, the illustrations were definitely worth more than a glance.

Chien-Nang: be careful who you elope with
The Flute Player: Witches & changelings (or baby stew!)
The Great Bear of Orange: Katrine gets thrown to the snakes, the sharks AND the lions!

The Hat: First rule of fairytales: always be kind to strangers.

Vasilissa Most Lovely: Baba Yaga has an eccentric taste in torches.
All of these books are out of print, but if you've a child who likes fairytales (or like them yourself) it's worth checking out AbeBooks for ex-library copies.  Some are rare (the mermaid volume goes for around $100) but most are reasonably priced and quite lovely.


  1. Very nice post! I think we discovered Manning-Sanders tales the same way while growing up. Now, as an adult, I have compiled a lot of information about here in this subsection of my blog, Papergreat: http://www.papergreat.com/search/label/Ruth%20Manning-Sanders

  2. How cool! Thanks for the link!

  3. I also found the fairy tales - and myths in the reference section(primary school library)and there was no-one else reading them. I also recall this particular illustrator, the drawings were stunning to me and made the stories so much more vivid. But I don't recal these particular drawings, so perhaps I haven't read Manning-Sanders. My international fairy tales came from a book series of tales from different countries. The fairy tale I remember most clearly (of the less common stories) is A colony of Cats (father Gato). I google searched to find the origin, which I've always thought was Italian, but all I can find is an early 1900's collection of fairy tales called the crimson fairy book. Come to think of it - we may have had it in the house. We have some seriously old childrens books passed down and bought from second hand shops.

  4. wikipedia to the rescue...it may have been italian, the fairy tales came from around the world and their were a whole series of books. Perhaps my library had a later edition. The modern ones cost $110 each!

  5. Manning-Sanders did twenty-five books with Jacques, including some collections which were named differently. But Jacques also worked on many other books according to the posts Chris linked to above.


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