In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

356 18. ‘A great, unlimited world’? Imaginative Locations in the Fairy Tales of Jessie Saxby and Violet Jacob SARAH DUNNIGAN Violet Jacob’s first children’s story collection, The Golden Heart (1904), is full of variations on the familiar fairy tale motif of the ‘maiden in the tower’ (ATU 310). In one tale, the incarcerated fairy tale heroine takes the form of two sisters, ‘Princesses of Japan’, who never leave the enclosure of their father’s palace, except to ‘watch from the walls to see the boats plying up and down, and the great cranes in the shallows fishing’.1 The miniaturism of their lives is thus effectively conjured up by contrast with the spacious symbols of the ‘unlimited world’ perceived beyond their immediate realm. Time and again in Jacob’s volume, place and space are narrative pinpoints which double up as imaginative charts of interiority. From that vantage point, this chapter explores what happens to the fairy tale mode in the hands of two women writers, Jacob from the northeast of Scotland, and Jessie Saxby from the Shetland isles, both writing on the cusp of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It uses the motif of cartography to suggest the particular paths which they navigated through fairy tale tropes and conventions and to identify the broader imaginative ‘compass points’, as it were, of their fictions. These, the chapter suggests, are evoked by literal and figurative embodiments of particular ideas of ‘northernness’, ‘home’, and ‘elsewhere’. And, especially in Jacob’s case, they also reside in the emotional and psychological spaces of these fictions which unlock a world of desire and longing. Such locations also open up the ways in which their work inhabits another threshold – this time between what might be termed tradition and experimentalism . In all its potentially ‘unlimited’ diversity, the fairy tale arguably offers Saxby and Jacob a mode which is both restrictive, in aspects of its formulaic narrative and moral inheritance, and yet capacious in its embrace of the aesthetic and emotional possibilities which the genre also licenses.2 357 imaginative locations: jessie saxby and violet jacob Neither Saxby nor Jacob’s fairy tales for children are well-known, nor given much attention within their highly varied bodies of creative work. This is perhaps because it can be perceived as a threefold marginal genre: popular; for children; by women.3 Neither writer, as far as I am aware, directly knew the other, though they have a shared inheritance in that they both came from privileged socio-cultural and political backgrounds, and had common interests in the imaginative and moral education of children.4 Despite this, their work strikingly constitutes two different imaginative directions taken by the fin-de-siècle children’s fairy tale in Scotland. In order to illustrate this divergence, this chapter focuses on one volume by each writer – Jacob’s The Golden Heart and Saxby’s Snow Dreams, or Funny Fancies for Little Folks – as a particular window onto their fantastical worlds. Both books emerge in the wake of the traditionally conceived ‘golden age’ of British children’s literature, famously populated by the imaginative worlds of Lewis Carroll, Charles Kingsley, and Christina Rossetti among others. They also implicitly belong to a lineage of late nineteenth-century Scottish ‘fabulists’ and ‘fantasists’ such as George MacDonald, R. L. Stevenson, and Andrew Lang, whose work also encompassed child readerships, though the demarcation between adult and child audiences for fantasy (frequently a subject of contention) was made deliberately fluid by writers such as MacDonald, and echoes through Jacob’s writing in particular. The first incarnation of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan appears in the same year as Jacob’s collection. Prior to this particular flourishing, the fairy tale in Scotland, as it were, had made its way through deep-rooted oral traditions, popular chapbook heritage, and folktale collection and creation. Along the way it had drawn some censure from moralists (the perceived imaginative excesses of some chapbooks were considered as ‘youth’s poison’, for instance) before MacDonald’s pivotal essay, ‘The Fantastic Imagination’, re-conceived its artistic and spiritual capacities. Fairy tales famously courted the disapproval of educational moralists such as Sarah Trimmer because they corrupted cherished values of church and state and might make children believe in magic and ‘superstition’. Women in particular were meant to be the guardians and nurturers of children, in literature as in life, so should shun putting ‘dangerously’ fantastical things into print.5 358 sarah dunnigan Significantly, however, in the...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.