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Reviewed by:
  • The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: The Western Fairy Tale Tradition from Medieval to Modern
  • Steven Swann Jones (bio)
The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: TheWestern Fairy Tale Tradition from Medieval to Modern. Edited by Jack Zipes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. xxxii + 601 pp.

Jack Zipes has assembled an impressive group of folklore scholars for the contributions to his encyclopedic survey of a variety of subjects related to fairy tales. The associate editors and contributors are certainly too numerous to [End Page 107] name, but they do represent a valid sampling of major scholars with varying approaches to the study of fairy tales from various cultures and they have done a creditable job in commenting on every subject relevant to this genre. However, by Zipes's own acknowledgement, "the focus of this Companion is essentially on the literary formation of the Western fairy-tale genre and its expansion into opera, theatre, film, and other related cultural forms" (xvi), so the discussion of the evolution and dissemination of fairy tales in the oral tradition is not as thoroughly considered as their literary counterparts. And in his introduction, Zipes relies on the outdated work of Vladimir Propp to discuss the form of the oral wonder tale, rather than engage more recent theory, and eschews reference to Max Lüthi's seminal studies of the oral examples of this genre. Zipes's history of literary fairy tales in the introduction is more satisfying and this clearly is the strength of the volume. Everything one would wish to learn about literary fairy tales has been included in this compendious Companion.

Major topics include "Approaches to the Literary Fairy Tale," "The Arabian Nights," "Ballet and Fairy Tales," "British and Irish Fairy Tales," "Communist Folk-Tale Films," "Walt Disney," "Drama and Fairy Tales," "Fantasy Literature and Fairy Tales," "Feminism and Fairy Tales," "Film and Fairy Tales," "Folklore and Fairy Tales," "France," "Germany," "Italy," "Myth/Mythology and Fairy Tales," "North American and Canadian Fairy Tales," "Opera and Fairy Tales," "Oral Tradition and Fairy Tales," "Oriental Fairy Tales," "Poetry and Fairy Tales," "Popular Song and Fairy Tales," "Portuguese Fairy Tales," "Psychology and Fairy Tales," "Scandinavian Countries," "Schools of Folk-Narrative Research," "Science Fiction and Fairy Tales," "Slavic and Baltic Countries," "Spain," "Storytelling and Fairy Tales," "Television and Fairy Tales," and "Victorian Fairy Painting." These pithy essays are useful references for students and interested readers who wish to learn more about these aspects of the influence and diffusion of fairy tales. In addition to these longer essays, the volume references almost every major tale and every recognizable name—and many unrecognizable names as well—connected to fairy tales. It is a thorough review and will serve well readers who are curious about specific associations and references related to this genre.

The shorter entries provide interesting and entertaining details about specific topics. For example, we learn that Joseph Jacobs "wanted to write 'as a good nurse will speak' when she recounted tales" (268); that Terry Jones, after his illustrious comedic career, wrote a collection of children's Fairy Tales (1981); that Shakespeare's use of fairies was "effective in creating the atmosphere desirable for masques" (462); that there is a German film version of "The Singing Soaring Lark" entitled Das singende klingende Baumchen; that "[t]he most popular Sinbad was the 1918 musical comedy featuring Al Jolson as the black-faced clown Inbad" (465); that Milne published a handful of adult fairy tales [End Page 108] that "satirized the conventions of the genre" (320); that Mary Molesworth wrote "'The Reel Fairies' based on her own childhood imaginative games with the reels in her mother's workbox" (321); that fairy tale illustrator Gustave Doré liked to keep his pencils sharpened at both ends so that he could work more rapidly; that Collodi's Le avventure di Pinocchio "is not a traditional story reworked, but is, nevertheless, a fairy tale, a principal character being 'the Fairy with the indigo hair' (not 'the Blue Fairy', which is a Disney distortion of the original)" (103); that before Mme d'Aulnoy became the darling of the French court, she was "imprisoned with her new-born third daughter" (31); and that Afanasyev's collections...


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