The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett; 1914; Lippincott
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Macabre Tales by Washington Irving; 2010; Fall River Press
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm; Undated; Nelson Doubleday
Perhaps I am revisiting my childhood. Plenty of friends of mine are teachers and they have been asking recently for book suggestions for this and that grade level now that the school year is started, so maybe that has planted the seed. But, no. It’s the truth to say that I have been reliving the fairy tales for months now.
I stumbled across The Lost Prince (is that hyperbole, to say that I found this book about someone who is lost, or is that just goofy?) this past weekend and have been devouring it ever since, like a proper woodland witch. One of my all-time favorite books is Burnett’s The Secret Garden, although this one is starting to bring up a challenge. It’s full of boyish/manly exploits and intrigues, which makes perfect reading for the youth. This is the boy equivalent to my cherished Garden girlie-book.
And of course, there are the fairy tales. It’s dreamy to imagine that, at one time, the woods were a place of scary, dark forces (such as woodland witches), especially when we have so few left to contemplate at all. I adore the rich history of the European tradition, where so many cultures have always slipped and slid past each other over so many centuries. When those were brought to the Americas and married to the landscape, we got the weird stylings of Washington Irving. It’s funny to read “Sleepy Hollow” now and realize there is nothing actually scary about it- it’s about a jealous man playing a prank on a squeamish man over the love of a “blooming young lass.” More like a horse opera. But some of the other stories are plenty creepy, like “Strange Stories by a Nervous Gentleman.”
The Grimm’s tales are a quick and totally fascinating read. “Prudent Hans,” for example, is about exactly nothing but a dunce of a son who visits his girlfriend, receives a gift every time, puts it someplace dumb, and then gets reprimanded by his mother. Every time, he says the same thing: “All right, mother! I’ll do better next time.” He never does. It gets worse as the tale progresses and he sticks the increasingly large and bizarre gifts into more and more inappropriate places. Eventually, weirdly, the girlfriend gifts herself to Hans, gets left tied by a rope in the manger, and then has sheep’s eyes thrown at her by Hans at his mother’s urging. Huh? And the moral is... I’m not at all sure. Mothers hate their gullible daughters-in-law, perhaps.
And oddly enough, thinking of the Grimm’s tales leads me to another story about a recent visitor to New Orleans who was reminded of “The Bremen Town Musicians” after a trip to Mardi Gras World, which in turn led to us watching a whole week’s worth of Russian animated short films... Funny how that stuff works out.