Non-Fiction Reviews

The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales

(2015 2nd ed.) Jack Zipes (ed.), Oxford University Press, £35 / US$50, hrdbk, xxxv + 720pp, ISBN 978-0-199-68982-8


Wow! Now where do you start with this meaty tome of a book? A companion to fairy tales, no less, and no mean task, edited by Jack Zipes, who is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Minnesota University and a well kent face to those who read and study fairy tales, since in his long career stretching back over forty years he has written many non-fiction books about fairy tales and edited many anthologies of fairy tales gathered from different parts of the world or devoted to a particular theme or character.

This is a second edition of The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, the first appeared in 2000, but this is no mere reprint. 130 new entries have been included to reflect the impact of recent books and films, even websites and social media. At a first glance you might think that fairy tales are something that survive only on the page or are kept alive by oral storytellers, but their impact and range is vast. Think of recent TV series based on fairy tales like 'Once Upon a Time', or 'Grimm' or the reboot of 'Beauty and the Beast'. Then do the same for films (Maleficent, Into the Woods, Cinderella, Snow White and the Huntsman, etc.), then there is music and ballet and theatre and comics like Fables series. Therefore this edition of the companion contains references to the work of J. K, Rowling and Suzanne Collins and developments such as blogs and websites. There is even a section about pornography and fairy tales.

Apart from the A-to-Z entries, there is an extensive bibliography detailing almost forty pages worth of publications under the heading 'Fairy Tale Studies' including sixteen other books by Zipes himself (and one by Jack Zips, could that by a typo?). This is followed by a listing of the 'Classic Collections' either written by the likes of Hans Christian Andersen, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Angela Carter, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Virginia Haviland, Andrew Lang and many, many others. If that was not enough we then get a list of 'Specialist Journals' and 'Helpful Websites'.

The Companion is edited by Zipes, who carried the title of 'General Editor' and writes a twenty page introduction, but there are two ”Non-contributing editors” and sixteen 'Contributing Editors' and over sixty 'Contributors' all coming together to produce a book that is over 700 pages long, listing everything from Antti Arnne to Lisbeth Zwerger, and everything else in between, including some gorgeous illustrations from such classic fairy tales as Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel (Heinrich Vogeler’s 1895 illustration shows a particularly creepy, and gnarly old witch). The Wizard of Oz, Arabian Nights. The old English tale of 'Tattercoats', 'Jack the Giant Killer', 'Pinocchio', 'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Cinderella', 'Rumplestiltskin', 'Rapunzel' and a fantastic illustration of a griffin by Frederick Richardson carrying away the body of a canon in the story 'The Griffin and the Minor Canon' from 1887, if only it was a full colour version rather than black and white, yet, despite being almost 130 years old it looks like something straight out of a Harry Potter or a Peter Jackson film.

Lovers of fairy tales should put this on their Christmas list quick, and those who wanted to know everything about fairy tales but were too afraid to ask can safely look it up here.

Ian Hunter

[Up: Non-Fiction Index | Top: Concatenation]

[Updated: 16.1.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]