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Celtic Fairy Tales (1968)

Celtic Fairy Tales (1968)
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Rating
3.9 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0486218260 (ISBN13: 9780486218267)
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English
publisher
dover publications
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Celtic Fairy Tales (1968)
Celtic Fairy Tales (1968)

About book: I actually read these stories in two different editions. I started with the Collector’s Library edition of Jacobs’ Celtic Fairy Tales before realising that they had cut all Jacob’s original annotations and end-notes. Purely by chance I then I discovered this rather dusty copy hiding in the spare bedroom, spotted that it had all those end-notes and also contained Jacob’s follow-up More Celtic Fairy Tales, and did a bit of a book swap. The Collector’s Library edition is undoubtedly the more attractive book – this one is pretty old, has awkward page numbering that starts over again at 1 halfway through, and that annoying thing where illustrations are followed up by a completely blank page even in the middle of a story – but for me having access to Jacob’s notes on each story was more valuable than how pretty the book was. Sometimes in fact those notes were more interesting, and in several cases rather longer, than the stories they were about – though I didn’t always agree with some of his comments. Probably not something that matters to a lot of readers, but if you’re interested in the provenance of the fairy tales it’s definitely worth checking out whether the edition you pick up contains these end-notes or not.Now, onto the stories. As with most fairytale collections they’re a very mixed bag. A lot I had heard before, some I hadn’t and many many echoed very similar tales I had heard from other European traditions. Some are magical, some are mundane, some are funy, some are sad, some are preachy, and some are just plain weird. Most I liked, some I didn’t, but almost all of them were interesting in some way or another. One thing I will say though – these Celtic fairy tales are less likely to have happy endings than the ones most of us are used to and more likely to end with a nice bit of polyamory (though Jacobs’ very obviously changes at least one ending to avoid this – which I did not appreciate). Also many of the names are damn near unpronounceable.And there’s not really that much more to say. Taken out of the historical context of the 19th century fairytale revival and Jacobs’ role in that, it’s just a nice little book of slightly unusual fairytales – and not always told in the most accessible way. What really makes it special, apart from the detailed notes on each tale is the illustrations. John D. Batten’s work is absolutely beautiful, utilising a variety different styles to match the tone of each story – so the tragic episodes taken from Irish mythology are given lovely almost Art-Nouveau plates while the sillier more humourous stories have simple more cartoonish illustrations. The Story of Deidre Hudden and DuddenMy copy of this book isn’t a particularly good or quality printing, being just slightly more advanced than a bound photocopy of the two original publications (I hate that the page numbering restarts at 1 when you reach More Celtic Fairy Tales). But I can imagine an edition with the annoying format niggles ironed out and maybe a fancy hardcover, would make an absolutely beautiful addition to any library of fairy tales.

In the United States, classic fairy tales have been bowdlerized. The dark symbols of ogres, giants, witches, and curses of the Brothers Grimm have been transformed into two-dimensional versions of themselves with curses often being more pranks than devastating supernatural spells and witches becoming more like stepmothers than old crones. Children are no longer eaten and killed with regularity as in the didactic tales of the ancient world where disobedient children quickly met their ends. Favorite Celtic Fairy Tales is one of those bargain Dover paperbacks that one often finds in outlet stores. Although the provenance is Celtic, in general, the names seem to be tied to the Welsh backgrounds. So, one finds the “Tale of Ivan” instead of “Ian” and “The Llanfabon Changeling” rather than an encounter with faerie on the Emerald Isle or in the land of kilts and bagpipes. To be sure, there is a wicked stepmother who turns four children into swans. A naïve reader expects some hero to transform them back for a happy ending, but such cannot be assumed in a Celtic fairy tale. The aforementioned “Tale of Ivan” contains a brutal murder. The (also) aforementioned “The Llanfabon Changeling” isn’t about delightful leprechauns but about a faerie troop which is bold in stealing children and forcing them into a dark land of shadows rather than the ever-dancing (but still dangerous) realm of Lord Dunsany’s “King of Elfland’s Daughter.”Favorite Celtic Fairy Tales is a quick read, but it isn’t primarily an anthology of happy endings. Some of the stories do have happy endings, but several of them would never pass the survey at a film’s pre-release screening. U.S. audiences tend to like neat wrap-ups and victorious protagonists. The world of Celtic fairy tales is one where the victories are not guaranteed and, even when they come, they tend to be costly. This is a nice change of pace, but you have to be in the mood for it.
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Reviews
Michael
I simply love reading these old collections of "fairy tales," especially Celtic ones. About the time of this publication (1892) there was a most interesting effort by many literary authorities to collect original fairy tales handed down by word of mouth in the British Isles, especially in the rural areas and in the original Irish, Gaedlig or Welsh, before they were entirely lost. How I am grateful to them!Jacobs Celtic Fairy Tales (1892) is one of those delightful collections which attempt to retain at least some of the original authenticity of the Irish peasantry who handed down the tradition for so many generations. Especially endearing are the awesome and delightful illustrations by David Battes, whose meticulous style seems to have been completely lost to today's generation of book illustrators.A highly recommended addition to anyone's collection of fairy tales.
Gloria
This is a nice collection of fairy tales collected from Ireland. The illustrations are a good representation of the stories they accompany. Some of the stories have to do with fairies, others with a hero-type and the quests he must overcome. Still others have the quality of Aesop fables (short stories with a moral). The editor or collector explains that he would not have been amble to complete his goal without the work of some other people and his goal is to make these Celtic stories accessible to English children. His editing included spellings which allow the reader a taste of Irish brogue i.e. moidhering. He preserves other name and place spellings in the Celtic language. A very enjoyable read.
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