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BOOK REVIEWS The "Rich, Weird World" of Women's Fairy Tales Nina Auerbach and U. C. Knoepflmacher, eds. Forbidden Journeys: Fairy Tales and Fantasies by Victorian Women Writers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. vi+ 373 pp. $27.50 THE REIGNS of Victoria and Edward, well known in literary history for their development of the realistic novel, were also, paradoxically , the golden age of the fairy tale. Inspiration sprang both from the scholarly rediscovery of the marchen or folk fairy tale and the Romantic invention of the kunstmärchen or literary fairy tale. The Grimms' first collection of folktales was translated into English (with irresistible illustrations by George Cruikshank) in 1826, followed by the Norwegian collection of Peter Asbjörnsen and Jörgen Moe, and the English and Celtic collections of Joseph Jacobs. At the same time, Hans Christian Andersen, first translated into English in 1846, was becoming an international celebrity on the strength of his kunstmärchen, and demonstrating how such stories could combine an immediate appeal to children with artistic and highly individual creativity. By mid-century, some of the most illustrious living authors, both British and American, were experimenting with the new genre—Ruskin, Hawthorne, Dickens, Thackeray, Christina Rossetti—in addition to such classic children's authors as George MacDonald, Juliana Horatia Ewing, and Maria Louisa Molesworth. Oscar Wilde, Laurence Housman, and Mary de Morgan exposed the fairy tale to Pre-Raphaelite influences, and Frank Stockton to those of American democracy and pragmatism, while the Socialist and feminist E. Nesbit whisked it into the twentieth century. Until very lately, this rich store of fantasy was all but inaccessible, the bulk of it locked away in volumes that had been out of print for generations. One achievement of today's children's literature scholars has been to call attention to what is there, and to restore some fraction of it to our shelves. The Victorian Fairy Tale Book, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn (Pantheon, 1988), includes fairy tales by Ruskin, Dickens , Nesbit, de Morgan, Housman, and Ford Madox Ford, as well as full-length fantasies by Thackeray and Dinah Maria Mulock Craik. Jack Zipes provided a completely different selection of stories in Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves (Routledge, 1989) and edited Fairy Tales of Frank Stockton for Penguin Books (1990). Most recently, Nina Auerbach and U. C. Knoepflmacher, Victorianists also noted for their scholarship in children's literature, have published 565 ELT 37:4 1994 Forbidden Journeys, a fascinating collection of fairy tales and fantasies by Victorian women authors. Auerbach and Knoepflmacher have deliberately omitted works already found in the Zipes and Hearn anthologies, while including only "stories both of us loved," with their original illustrations. In addition to Jean Ingelow's full-length fantasy Mopsa the Fairy, the anthology contains Christina Rossetti's trio of stories Speaking Likenesses, two stories from Anne Thackeray Ritchie's Fairy Tales for Grown Folks, short dream-fantasies by Juliana Ewing and Frances Hodgson Burnett, and fairy tales by Ewing, Rossetti, Maria Louisa Molesworth, and E. Nesbit. Many of these are indeed all but unobtainable elsewhere, and Forbidden Journeys would be a valuable resource if it contained no more than the stories themselves. Like Zipes, however, Auerbach and Knoepflmacher intend not merely to bring some fine and unjustly neglected works to light, but to point the study of nineteenth-century fantasy in a new direction. Zipes's introduction to Victorian Fairy Tales divides both men and women authors into those he considers conservative in their underlying philosophy and "subversive" authors who challenge deep-seated assumptions about gender and society through the use of fantasy. (Alison Lurie similarly divides Victorian children's authors into conservative and "modern "—that is, subversive—in her 1990 Don't Tell the Grownups: Subversive Children's Literature). Auerbach and Knoepflmacher, on the other hand, create a division between children's authors based on gender. They contend that the fairy tales written by Victorian women were consistently darker, angrier, more ironic—more truly subversive—than those by Victorian men. "A little girl's journey into forbidden countries "—a kind of liberation achieved through the imagination—is what they call "the central plot" of Forbidden...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 565-569
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
N
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