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