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The acclaimed writer Alison Lurie, describes in her introduction the dual nature of Andrew Lang's fairy tale collections that makes them so valuable: they are at once a serious collection of authentic folk stories from around the world; and a delightful collection of stories that have been carefully translated and edited with children in mind. Other collections of folk tales were either so exactly recorded that they seemed dull and repetitious, or they were so literary that they lost the earthy flavours of their origin. Lang's collections, by contrast are the perfect balance of authenticity and readability. They are, as Lang wrote in his preface, 'as old as anything that men have invented,' and as he points out, children's tastes today do not differ much from those of their distant ancestors - they still prefer reading fairy tales to 'history, poetry, geography, or arithmetic'.
A queen disguises herself as a boy and travels to a far-off land to rescue her beloved husband; a boy tells a lie so extravagant that it beats the tall tales of a dishonest miller; a childless couple begs to be blessed with offspring, only to discover that one can have too much of a good thing … Magical creatures abound – from a cowardly dragon to a frog that excels in sewing and spinning – as do magical objects – a knife that enchants horses, a whistle that calls hares and a sack that contains two servants. But despite magic and spells, the message of most of these stories is that help comes only to those who show themselves to be resourceful, kind and brave.
Read more about the life and work of Andrew Lang