The introduction is a fascinating history of how these stories came to be written down and how they have survived in a variety of incarnations. Each story is followed by an end note with detailed information about its source and a list of similar versions found in other cultures. Pullman consulted a variety of editions in order to arrive at the words arranged here. His stated purpose was to "produce a version that was as clear as water" and he is successful in that aim; his focus is on the story. These tales are unadorned, straightforward, and incredibly compelling, just what fairy tales should be. He is true to the simplicity of each narrative while still maintaining all the weird little quirks that one would expect to find in tales that have been handed down from generation to generation. The lyric quality of his words belies their oral history; these are perfect for reading aloud.
Many, including those who follow the Waldorf tradition, have argued that the fairy tale persists because it serves a vital purpose in educating our young. Children and adults alike are drawn to them for a reason. Their timeless and direct nature make them wonderful vehicles for introducing moral lessons and the clear "good" and "evil" characters provide a mode by which children may learn how to cope with their emerging sense of ethics.
Viking is generously offering a copy of this book to one A Life Sustained reader.
And the winner is:
"I would love to have a copy of this book! The school my boys attend is in the Waldorf tradition of teaching through these fairy tales, and I would love to bring them home, as well. It would be so interesting for me to learn more of the background of each of the stories, as well as the lists of similar versions... it sounds fascinating! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!"
My review copy was provided courtesy of Viking.