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Review of The Watkins Book of English Folktales

When I was very small, I was given a copy of ‘Young Years’, a thick book with a selection of poems and fairy tales, all heavily edited, but with intriguing (to a small child anyway!) illustrations. It was published the same year I was born, 1971. I read every page of this book over and over as a child. And I credit it for starting my love of folk and fairy tales (as well as a love of magic and myth). Though even then the poems and stories in the book always felt so lacking, I just KNEW there should be more to them.

I was later, as a slightly older child, given a 1940s book of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson which had been my father’s when he was a child. The stories were so full and wondrous compared to those in ‘Young Years’ and also delightfully dark and grim. Since then, I have collected many volumes of folk and fairy tales from various places such as Poland, Sweden, Germany and other places as well. But this is my first volume of English tales!

One of my favourite things about this marvellous book, well, two favourite things, is firstly, it is written in dialect. For me, I really enjoy reading in the voice of the narrator. And two, each story is prefaced with the source of the story and who the story-teller was. Many of the entries also include historical notes which are absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in these sorts of tales. The number of the tale in the International Folktale catalogue is also included, which may be of use to more scholarly readers. When I first read through the table of contents, I was surprised to see Snow White, knowing that to be a German tale. But this version contains nary a dwarf, but instead, robbers! It is fascinating to see how tales spread and were changed in different countries.

The book itself is also quite lovely considering how affordable it is! It is a black hardcover with silver foil decoration on the covers and the spine, and has gorgeous, printed endpapers as well!

I absolutely treasure this addition to my collection of folk and fairy tale books! Thank you Watkins Publishing!

*This book is a reprint of The Penguin Book of English Folktales published in 1992.


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