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Marvels & Tales 17.2 (2003) 280-283
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Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults. Anna E. Altmann and Gail de Vos. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2001. xxiii + 296.
Tales, Then and Now: More Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults is the much-anticipated sequel to New Tales for Old: Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults, which came out in 1999. Modeled after the earlier work, the new volume has essentially the same format, providing a synopsis; an analysis of each tale's tale-type and motif elements according to the Aarne-Thompson indexes; a brief overview of the tale's literary history, with references to its place within oral tradition; and then a detailed annotated listing of selected [End Page 280] scholarly critical interpretations of the tale arranged chronologically, followed by annotations of literary reworkings of each tale in novel, short story, film and stage play, poetry (which includes selected music recordings), picture book, and graphic novel form, as well as references to Internet resources and suggestions for classroom use.
New Tales for Old presented this detailed analysis for eight wonder tales derived from European oral tradition. Tales, Then and Now focuses on tales excluded from that previous work because they are primarily literary in origin, although some have moved from print into the oral tradition and others had oral roots before being cast into literary form. The division between these categories blurs at times but, for the most part, it works. The essential requirement is that the tale must have generated enough literary reworkings--"versions that are more radically changed than simple retellings" (xvii)--to warrant in-depth analysis. For this volume, Altmann and de Vos have chosen to include "Beauty and the Beast," two Jack stories, two ballads--"Tam Lin" and "Thomas the Rhymer" treated together within one chapter--and five stories from Hans Christian Andersen. Three, "The Snow Queen," "The Emperor's New Clothes," and "The Princess and the Pea," with fewer reworkings, are treated together within one chapter that gives an analysis of Andersen's work as a whole. Two, "The Little Mermaid" and "The Wild Swans," are treated more extensively, each within their own chapter, with detailed analysis of the Disney movie for the first, and of the folk sources for Andersen's tale (three versions in the Brothers Grimm: "The Six Swans," "The Seven Ravens," and "The Twelve Brothers") for the second. Next, the authors provide a chapter of updates to their first volume, adding more recent literary reworkings of "Cinderella," "The Frog King," "Hansel and Gretel," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Rapunzel," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Snow White." Unfortunately, this chapter only updates literary treatments and doesn't attempt to update the very useful sections on critical analysis. Finally, the book concludes with an unannotated appendix of literary reworkings of ballads, Andersen tales, and folktales not otherwise covered in these two volumes, recognizing that their choice to present detailed analysis of a limited number of specific tales results in many notable literary reworkings of other tales being overlooked. This appendix is a way of adding breadth, however superficially, to the impressive depth of the two main volumes.
Robin McKinley's Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (1978) was one of the original inspirations for the undertaking. In the chapter on "Beauty and the Beast," the French literary roots of the tale are clearly expounded, as well as its connections to earlier "Animal Bridegroom" folktales. The authors acknowledge their debt to Betsy Hearne's Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale (1989), which gives a solid foundation to [End Page 281] this chapter. Although not comprehensive, the critical interpretation section includes significant analyses by Jack Zipes, Marina Warner, Maria Tatar, Cristina Bacchilega, and others. This chapter provides insightful assessment of film adaptations by Jean Cocteau and the Disney Studios, in addition to reviewing other film and TV adaptations and the numerous literary reworkings. Altmann and de Vos describe Cocteau's film as "a story of dualities...