Last night, I realized that we forgot to introduce our 7yo to fairy tales and fables. No Hans Christian Andersen. No Brothers Grimm. No Aesop. No Monkey God, from the Chinese tradition. No Coyote, from indigenous traditions. No Disney versions, even.
Exception: the summer he was 2, we took a roadtrip and he was so fussy and tearful that I spent the entire trip facing backwards (from the front passenger seat), telling him either “The Three Little Pigs” or “Goldilocks”, over and over and over. I’d have branched out but every time I tried to tell a third story, he began screaming again. Apart from “The Three Little Pigs” and “Goldilocks”, our firstborn is a blank slate for fairy tales.
I think I remember how this happened. I wanted to hold off on the Disney adaptations until he’d encountered the originals and visualized them for himself. And each time I looked up translations of Grimm and Andersen at the library, the stories just seemed too old for him. Dark. Violent. Cynical.
At this point, however, our 7yo has already encountered the Second World War and the Holocaust. He’s asked what the F-word is (and I’ve told him). And sometimes, to express extreme self-pity, he deliberately stands like the Wimpy Kid. “Hey, Greg Heffley,” we greet him in passing. Basically, I think we’re ready to circle back. Here’s what I’ve ordered up from the library:
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, ed. Noel Daniel, trans. Matthew R. Price (Taschen)
I couldn’t decide which of these translations of Hans Christian Andersen to choose, so I’ve requested both (yay, libraries!)
The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen, trans. Jeffrey Frank and Diana Crone Frank (Granta).
Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen, trans. Tiina Nunnally (Viking). I love Nunnally’s recent translation of Pippi Longstocking, so I have high hopes for this one.
I’m still searching for the right edition of Wu Cheng En’s Journey to the West, a classical Chinese novel about the adventures of the greedy, sneaky, impulsive Monkey God. My local library holds a bunch of these graphic novel versions, retold by Wei Dong Chen and illustrated by Chao Peng, which I’ll investigate.
I’ll also keep looking for well-illustrated versions of the Arthur Waley translation. I have extremely fond memories of my grandfather reading these stories to my brother and me, translating from Chinese as he went, so I’m hoping to find a really exceptional edition.
I haven’t yet tackled Aesop or researched First Nations mythology, but I’ll get there. Do you have any recommendations? Strong convictions about fairy tales? Lay it on me in the comments, please!