On the cusp of a new decade, I’ve turned some new year resolutions into ten-year readolutions.  One of them is to read 1000 fairy tales, folk tales, myths and legends, starting with the first such book I remember, which I still have and cherish.

Fairy Tales and Legends of the World was a birthday present (perhaps 7th or 8th) from three friends of my parents: a Spanish lady and two Italian men.  My parents were away, no idea where or why, and they asked Angeles, Rienzo and Alberto to organise a birthday party for me.  They did so with kindness, and I remember a line up of little kids climbing on the coffee table one after the other so they could throw themselves into Rienzo’s outstretched arms, to squeals of joy.

The book was a treasured part of my childhood and I studied its tales and illustrations with the intensity children can bring to something they love, and they brought me comfort and inspiration.  A few are featured below, and they have stood the test of time – re-reading them on dark January nights, half a century after the first reading, I enjoyed them just as much.  They also made me aware that the world included different places and people and they all had great stories.

And look at the illustration for the back cover.  As some of you know, I have a lifelong interest in court fools and jesters.  Could the seeds have been sown with this one, the first I can recall seeing?

I wonder where Alberto and Angeles are now, very likely still alive, and I salute Rienzo who is almost certainly elsewhere.  He had the most beautiful and illegible hieroglyphic hand-writing – it used to take my mother hours to decipher his letters.

See also our celebration of another book of fairy tales we have just re-read, and a sad legend from Japan. 

Source: Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith (Manchester: World Distributors, 1967)

Book - Fairy Tales - table of contents
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Fairy Tales and Legends of the World, retold by Mae Broadley, illus. by Mary Smith
Illustration - Fairy Tales - front cover
Book illustration - Fairy Tales - title page
Illustration - Fairy Tales - back cover

3 Comments

  1. Angela Bhardwaj

    I’ve just realised you haven’t shared the actual stories – still the images have rekindled my memories of them and the magical times I spent reading them. Thank you

    Reply
  2. Angela Bhardwaj

    I was gifted this book when I was about 6 way back in 1976. My older sisters would read them to me, and afterwards I would stare at the pictures, re living the words in my head. Soon I could read the stories on my own and they charmed me and sometimes haunted me but always thrilled me. We moved around a lot in my childhood and along the way the book disappeared. I have never forgotten it and would love to own a copy again though I think this is very difficult. I’ve looked. Thank you so much for making these stories available again. Some of them I remember so clearly….. the little matchstick girl was one that always made me sad and the voice made me shudder. I’ll share them with my own children who alas are past the fairy tale age but who doesn’t like a good story regardless of one’s age. Thank you again. The book was a definite inspiration for my own story telling journey.

    Reply
    • beatriceotto

      Thank you so much for this detailed recall of the book’s influence on you (and, I hope, your children too). It’s heartening to hear of such deep connections with childhood reading. And although I didn’t actually share the stories, you’ve given me an idea for more podcasts. Many thanks again for getting in touch, and do let me know if I may add you to the WritingRedux mailing list for occasional ‘delight despatches’. Beatrice

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