by Jack Zipes ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1999
Zipes (German/Univ. of Minnesota; Don't Bet on the Prince, 1986, etc.), a children's literature specialist, here gathers together his introductions and postscripts from various previous fairy tale collections. The result is a concise yet comprehensive picture of the genre's development in Western Europe and America since the 1600s. Fairy tales thrived as an oral tradition for centuries before they were transcribed. Zipes argues that early tales didn't target a juvenile audience; instead, their allegorical form often concealed social, moral, ethical, and aesthetic criticism appreciated only by adults. The pioneer of the genre in France was Charles Perrault, who created fairy tales drawing on pagan beliefs and folklore, rather than on antique sources, as the classicist canon of his time preferred. In Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm charged their tales with Protestant ethics, while Hans Christian Andersen negotiated power relations and social domination in Danish society. Due to religious austerity, fairy tales were suppressed in England until the middle of the 19th century. After they entered literature officially during the Victorian Age, they exhibited a strong didactic tendency, and eventually took shape as an implicit critical inquiry into the dominant materialist culture, the oppressive moral code, or, as in the case of Oscar Wilde, normative sexuality. Among American fairy tale writers, Zipes focuses particularly on Frank Baum, whose multivolume work on the utopian land of Oz became a fixture of the cultural landscape, embodying the author's dream of a socialist alternative to American capitalism. Zipes skillfully weaves into his narrative the story of the influence of the Arabian Nights, translations of which began to appear in the West as early as the 1700s. At the close of his study, he also looks briefly at how the 20th-century German novelist Hermann Hesse infused the classical fairy tale with the macabre and romantic realism to reflect his personal journey and European political conflicts. An enticing reexamination of cherished texts.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999
Page Count: 240
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998
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