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Entrancing, multi-layered and as wittily subversive as fairy tales themselves, this beautifully illustrated work explores and illuminates the unfolding history of the famous tales, the contexts in which they flourished, and the tellers themselves - from ancient sibylis and old crones to Angela Carter and Disney.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099479512
ISBN-10: 0099479516
Format: Paperback
(234mm x 152mm x 35mm)
Pages: 480
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 7-Sep-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Marina Warner has established an enormous reputation particularly with studies that directly address the mythic properties of the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. It is then a surprisingly small step from that to this, a work which analyses the way certain stories have demonstrated extraordinary resonance both through the ages and across cultures. She moves effortlessly from Perrault, de la Fontaine and their precursors to the ubiquitous Disney of today, showing the ways in which adaptations reflect the times for which they are written. But her erudition and intelligence are too great for simple answers or synopses to be given or found. Nonetheless stories such as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, studied in depth in Part 2 with some other archetypal tales, are illuminated with marvellous clarity. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Fabulous erudition marks this intricate study of the classic tales of wonder. Novelist and scholar Warner (Indigo, 1992; Monuments and Maidens, 1985; etc.) avows her sympathy for the fairy tales and tale-tellers on whom she focuses her keen feminist lens. Warner begins by arguing for the centrality to European fairy-tale culture, since ancient times, of old women, both as the oral historians who have passed it on and as key characters in its iconography. Reviled by some, the crones whom Warner spotlights nevertheless appear in formidable guises. Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, turns out to be the patron saint of gossips; her attributes survive in fairy tale figures (e.g., fairy godmothers). In a tour de force of scholarly speculation, Warner links the Queen of Sheba, whose riddles were the stuff of legend and who was known for her singular deformity of a webbed foot, to Mother Goose herself. Thus reweaving our understanding of the cultural unconscious, Warner draws on psychoanalysis, on philology, and on a trenchant feminism. While some connections seem stretched, for the most part these threads blend smoothly. The second part of Warner's book analyzes the tales themselves. "Bluebeard," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Donkeyskin," a little-discussed tale of a girl's escape from incest, are the central exhibits. Occasionally Warner lapses into selfindulgence, as in a reverie on the blue of Bluebeard's beard ("the marvellous . . . rare steak . . . melancholy . . . orgone energy"). But her genuine originality shows in her ability to wring fresh psychoanalytic insight out of texts that have been in intensive analysis for decades. The discussion of feet developed in passages on the Queen of Sheba, for example, casts new light on Cinderella's glass slipper; the golden hair and archetypal beasts named in the title are illuminated in similarly provocative ways. One factor contributing to this originality is Warner's astute readings of artworks throughout this sumptuously illustrated book. Marvelously energetic cultural criticism. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Marina Warner

Marina Warner spent her early years in Cairo, and was educated at a convent in Berkshire, and then in Brussels and London, before studying modern languages at Oxford. She is an internationally acclaimed cultural historian, critic, novelist and short story writer. From her early books on the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, to her bestselling studies of fairy tales and folk stories, From the Beast to the Blonde, No Go the Bogeyman and Stranger Magic, her work has explored different figures in myth and fairy tale and the art and literature they have inspired. She lectures widely in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, and is currently Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex. She was appointed CBE in 2008.

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