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The Six Greatest Children’s Books and Fairy Tales Ever Written

Updated on June 21, 2016

The Wonderful and Amazing world of Fairy Tales & their Authors

These are called fairy stories. Why? The word "Fairy" comes for the Latin word fata, which means "one of the Fates." The fates were the supreme gods of the Roman world whose architecture survives in post offices and railroad stations, whose language lingers in mottoes, and whose soldiers and officials may be glimpsed in the background of the New Testament. In fact, fairies and all such spirits and tiny forest presences are what is left of the gods,who were worshiped before Christ. Imagine a forest, and imagine the forest over swept by an ocean. The forest is drowned; but along the shore tings and sticks, dwindled and worn and soaked with salty ware, are washed up. These bits are fairy stories, the ocean is the Christian faith that in a thousand years swept over Europe, and the forest is the world of pagan belief that existed before it. So, when you pick up a fairy story, the substance is pagan wood, but the taste is glisten is of Christian salt.

Everybody has read some of Grimm's Tales, but it is surprising how few people have read German Fairy Tales translated form other books. A few year after the Grimm's collected their stories, the German author and scholar Ludwig Bechstein made two large collections of German fairy tales and legends. The three stores in "The Rabbit Catcher" are for the first time translated into English. Before they were only in German in came form Bechstein's Book of Fairy Tales. A few fairy tales are like wedding cakes, a few are like old stale soda crackers, and most are like plain rye bread backed in a country oven. These three stories in Bechstein's Tares are rye bread.

Below are what I believe are the six greatest fairy-tail books for children ...

1. The Rabbit Catcher and Other Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein

2. The King of the Golden River, a Fairy Tale by John Ruskin

3. The Young King and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde

4. The Golden Bird and other Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm

5. The Lion & the Carpenter & Other Tales from The Arabian Nights

6. Thumbelina and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

Six of the Greatest children’s Fairy Tales, and Books ever Written

y Six of the greatest children’s Fairy Tales, and books ever written The Rabbit Catcher, Bechstein. The King of the Golden River, John Ruskin. The Young King, Wilde. The Golden Bird, Grimm's. The Lion & the Carpenter, & Thumbelina, Andersen.
y Six of the greatest children’s Fairy Tales, and books ever written The Rabbit Catcher, Bechstein. The King of the Golden River, John Ruskin. The Young King, Wilde. The Golden Bird, Grimm's. The Lion & the Carpenter, & Thumbelina, Andersen.

Once Upon a time there really were Palaces, & Princesses

Understand that once upon a time there really were palaces, and young princes and princesses, and deep dark forest where it seemed very possible that elves lived and animals talked. This time is called the Middle Ages. When the Middle Ages were over, writers like Charles Perrault, a Frenchman, and Hans Christian Andersen, a Dane, collected the fairy stories that people remembered, and even made up some of their own. These stories in these books were made up by some of the best story tellers the world has ever known.

The Happy Prince, a Beautiful Fairy Tale of Love by Oscar Wilde

Fairy Tails, Restless and Homeless, Floating Birds of Paradise

In his introduction to his book Bechstein calls the fairy tales "the restless and homeless, floating bird of paradise of innocent traditions." Any reader will be enchanted by this beautiful phrase, and yet it does not seem to fit the peaceful homey flock of barnyard fowls that hop cheerfully back and forth around Bechstein's stolid German form. The stories, even down to their last bit of style, are as plain and homely as can be. Most of them are what you might call then-and-though stores: somewhere near the start of every sentence, the reader feels, he is going to meet the word then or the word though or, in German, da or aber. Often the stores go along like this: Then the lad asked the princess whether she would do it. She would not though. Then he started to leave her. Thee princess followed him, though, and would not go back. Then ... Some old furniture has every piece of wood attached to every other piece of wood by a wooden peg: these storytellers must have felt that no sentence was really connected to any other sentence without those wooden gets, then and though.

The Rabbit Catcher and Other Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein

The Rabbit Catcher and Other Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein translated and introduced by Randal Jarrell and illustrated by Ugo Fontana, Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
The Rabbit Catcher and Other Fairy Tales of Ludwig Bechstein translated and introduced by Randal Jarrell and illustrated by Ugo Fontana, Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

The Rabbit Catcher, A rich King has a very Beautiful Daughter

A story like The Rabbit Catcher is so much a country, peasant story that you feel the storyteller never has even seen a town of any size, much less a king or princess. The princess carried a hand basket, her father rides on a donkey with two hand baskets, and their palace has an attic fll of peas and lentils. The story begins "A rich king has a very beautiful daughter", but if you ask me he was a pretty poor king. But there is something very charming about the scene in which the shepherd boy sits with the princess on a green mound, his hundred rabbits grazing all around; the little joke in the story are plain but real jokes; and it is delightful to have the story say that when the boy blew his whistle in the roomful of bread "so many mice came in tht is was almost sinister."

The King of the Golden River, a Fairy Tale by John Ruskin 1962

The King of the Golden River, a Fairy Tale by John Ruskin, introduced by Elizabeth Bowen. Illustrated by Sandro Nardini and made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
The King of the Golden River, a Fairy Tale by John Ruskin, introduced by Elizabeth Bowen. Illustrated by Sandro Nardini and made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

Many of the most Loved Fairy Tales have Something in Common

Lucky are those who love fairy stories. You who will read "The King of the Golden River" are, I hope, eager for yet another. Already, maybe, you have your favorites, which you like as well that you all buy know them by heart. If so, you may notice that while no good fairy stories are ever at all the same, many of them have something in common. How often, for instance, there are three brothers, of whom the youngest - modest, brave and deserving - is the one who wins his way to good fortune. Should there be a lovely princess ( as there often is ) it will be this youngest brother who wins her hand. But he has to go through much on his way to victory: terrifying dangers and dreadful monsters and snares of the trickiest kind beset his path. As we know, even in the everyday world an adventurous youth has much to contend with! But the fairy-tale hero has extra-powerful friends and enemies. The good fairies work for him, the bad against him.

King of the Golden River or "The Black Brothers" by John Ruskin

Marvelous Tales from the Macmillan Co., of New York & London

Here are some more Marvelous tales from the Macmillan Company in the early 1960s. Translated and introduced by Randall Jarrell, John Updike, Jean Stafford, and Isak Dinesen
Here are some more Marvelous tales from the Macmillan Company in the early 1960s. Translated and introduced by Randall Jarrell, John Updike, Jean Stafford, and Isak Dinesen

Black Hearted Elder Brothers of "The King of the Golden River"

In "The King of the Golden River" we have three brothers, but no princess. And the fairy personages are neither gauzy nor pretty: on the contrary, they are decidedly comic - an old looking, fussy, bossy pair of old men. Should we, indeed, call South - West Wind, Esquire ( so bedraggled when he enters the story ) and the little gold King, whose home is the furnace, "fairies" at all? Whether or not, they both wield strong magical powers, which can make them valuable friends but destructive enemies. The only out and out monsters in this story are, I am sorry to tell you, tow human beings: Schwartz and Han, the mean, cruel, black hearted elder brothers of our you hero, generous fair-haired Gluck. A horrible end ( which I won't divulge for fear of spoiling the story ) awaits these bullies. Moreover, what brings them to it is not so much magic as their own hateful faults.

The Young King and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde. Made 1962

The Young King and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde. Introduced by John Updike, illustrated by Sandro Nardini and Enrico Bagnoli, made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
The Young King and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde. Introduced by John Updike, illustrated by Sandro Nardini and Enrico Bagnoli, made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince, a Swallow and a a Statue Talk

Two reason Oscar Wilde was so good at writing fairy tales are first Ireland was where Oscar Wilde was a child, remained a magical country long after magic had fled other countries. People believed in fairies there, or half believed in them, to this day. When the The Happy Prince, a swallow and a a statue talk, they talk naturally, without full, as bids sing. The second reason for Oscar Wilde was so good at his tells is he wrote in a time when grown men wrote very seriously for young readers. For instance, Hawthorne and Longfellow in America, and in England Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Rudyard Kipling all wore stories and poems for children to read. They did not do it offhand, or with a sly smile, but in earnest, with all the skill and wisdom they had as if their lives depended upon.it, which in a way they did.

The Young King by Oscar Wilde, an Amazing children Fairy Tail

Many of Grimm's Tales were stories that, like Nursery Rhymes

Many of Grimm's Tales were stories that, like nursery rhymes, everybody knew and nobody know the author of these got better or got worse as they passed from one mouth to another. Others were stories so good, and so wonderfully phrased and organized, that they must have been imagined by one man and repeated word for word to the Brothers Grimm - "The Fisherman and His Wife" is that kind of story. The best storytellers not only made up stories themselves, but also knew hundreds of stories by heart; some German editions of Grimm's Tales have a portrait of the woman who told the brothers a great many of their stories. The Germans call such stories "Marchen", which means folk stories: we call them folk tales or fairy tales. Most of the stories wee not just children's stories - after all, the whole family was listening; if some of the stories were meant mostly for the children, other were meant mostly for the grown-ups.

The Golden Bird and other Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm

The Golden Bird and other Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm, translated and introduced by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Sandro Nardini. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
The Golden Bird and other Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm, translated and introduced by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Sandro Nardini. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

Grimm's Tales are some of the Stories People told in Germany

If you lived in northern Europe, where the winter days are shorter and the winter nights longer; and if you had nothing but the fire in the fireplace to keep you warm, so that you either sat by the fireside or else huddled inside a feather bead: and if you hand not any light but the light of the fire or the light of a tallow candle; and if you never had learned to read, and if the radio and television and the movies hand not been invented yet, why, what would you do all winter, to make the time go by? Would not you tell stories and listen to stories? That is what people used to do, and the tales were call Grimm's Tales (after the two brothers who wrote them-down) are some the the stories people used to tell, in Germany.

Fairy Tales The Golden Bird, by the Brothers Grimm

The Lion & the Carpenter & Other Tales from The Arabian Nights

The Lion and the Carpenter and other Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold and introduced by Jean Stafford, illustrated by Sandro Nardini. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
The Lion and the Carpenter and other Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold and introduced by Jean Stafford, illustrated by Sandro Nardini. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

The History of Shahrazad's Tales are from Ancient Persia

The history of Shahrazad's Tales goes that in ancient time in Persia there was a bloodthirsty king who married flocks of pretty girls and killed each one of them the day after the wedding. Before long, naturally, there were not many girls left. One morning, as he was strolling in his gardens, the king caught sight of his Grand Vizier's elder daughter as she sat beside a lily pond, reading a book. On the spot, he ordered her be his queen for a day. But Shahrazad, as she was called, was far cleverer than the wives before her, and through her cleverness she saved her life. Every night, for a thousand and one nights, she told her husband stories. Some of them she had heard, some she had read, some she made up as she went along. She spun these tales out of the thread of the mysterious and magnificent Orient and she embellished them with the gems of fairyland. There were stories of magic and mischief, of long dangerous journeys by land and by sea, of learned animals an of people who were turned into fish. There were stories of poor men who suddenly became fantastically rich when they discovered great bags of gold and jewels hidden in caves or buried under trees. This wonderful imaginary world was peopled with powerful genies, some good and some evil; with queens of dazzling beauty and queens of monstrous cruelty; with crooks and practical jokers, sultans who sat on ruby thrones, highwaymen, soothsayers, spice merchants and thugs. In fabulous gardens, fabulous peacocks strutted among fabulous flowers. Wedding feats lasted for a month at a time. Nothing was done by halves.

Always, just as the sun came up, Shahrazad brake off at the most exciting part and the king could not bring himself to kill her because he was too anxious to know how the story come out. If she finished one adventure before the night was over, she began anther so that the spellbound king was forever in suspense. In time, she became a habit with her husband, like steamy baths or thick sweet coffee, and her grew to love her dearly. He never took another wife, and the number of girls in the kingdom increased until the state had to provide dowries to marry them off.

Thumbelina and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

Thumbelina and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Introduced by Isak Dinesen, illustrated by Sandro Nardini and Ugo Fontana. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962
Thumbelina and Other Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Introduced by Isak Dinesen, illustrated by Sandro Nardini and Ugo Fontana. Made by the Macmillan Company, New York and London. Printed in 1962

Isak Dinesen was another great Danish writer like Hans Andersen.

Isak Dinesen was another great Danish writer like Hans Andersen. She was born after Hans Andersen died, yet she had the feeling that she knew him quite well, and that he was her friend. When she was a little girl and had been put to bed in the evening, her old Nurse used to read one of his tales to her - when she grew up and was married, the old Nurse gave Isak a nice, bright red copy of Andersen's Tales. Isak remembers how Hans Andersen had the talent that he could make big things small and small things big. She lived in the country, and there were horses there that she loved to ride on, but they were so big that without assistance she could not get onto them or off them. With her imagination as a child she remembered how Andersen made them quite small, like her kittens, and herself much smaller than she was like Thumbelina. Hans Christian Andersen could make all things speak, as you yourself know from his tales and he was a true master of imagination, and has inspired countless new writers like Isak Dinesen who is know know as the greatest Danish writer since Hans Christian Andersen.

"The Little Match Girl" by the amazing Hans Christian Andersen

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