Friday, February 6, 2015

Once Upon a Time by Marina Warner

Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner --- 200 pages including bibliography and index.

Marina Warner is a distinguished British scholar and writer who is the chair of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize committee, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world.

She has written several books on the subject of fairy tales and their influence on literature and the arts.  In this short book she discusses the history and interpretation of the fairy tale, primarily focusing on the European tradition.

As Sir Terry Pratchett has observed, the oldest stories are always, eventually, about blood. Warner agrees; few things run deeper in the human consciousness than the wonder or fairy tale. This brief survey looks at the development of fairy tales across several centuries, and examines some of the principal theories as to their meaning and continuing attraction.

The greatest weakness of the book is that Warner does not go far enough; she focuses on the literary record and neglects to consider the earlier, oral transmission of story. The greatest strength of the book is how Warner demonstrates the imprint of fairy tale on modern story telling: how Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, evokes the monster husband, Bluebeard; how Disney's film Frozen draws on Andersen's Snow Queen; how choreographer Matthew Bourne has re-imagined Sleeping Beauty's Prince Charming as a vampire who wakes her with a bite.

Click HERE to read the Boston Globe review; click HERE to read the UK Guardian review;
and click HERE to read the Irish Times review.

Click HERE to visit Marina Warner's web site.

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