I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
I’m not sure what I expected when I began this translation of the original compilation of folk tales. I guess I anticipated some surprises, stories which I had never heard before. And there were a few of those, but mostly what surprised me was how many of these tales were familiar to me!
Virtually everyone knows about Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, and Hansel & Gretel. It was fun to see the older versions, un-Disneyfied and unadorned. But what a walk down memory lane, reading stories like The Frog Prince or The Swan Princes. And the 6 princesses who were each mysteriously wearing out a pair of dancing slippers every evening, dancing underground with 6 handsome princes. Glass mountains to be climbed, witches to be outwitted, sleeping potions to be avoided, there are always obstacles for the heroes to overcome. And those heroes seem to be split between princes and paupers, even princesses and common maidens get to star in many of them.
Although there are pious Christian messages overlaying a few of the stories, more of them seem to hint at a pre-Christian past in a tantalizing way. Well worth a read if you are interested in the origins of some of our literary conventions.