Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: March 7th, 2017
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Blurb from goodreads:
Perhaps no fairy tale is as widely known as 'Beauty and the Beast' - and perhaps no fairy tale exists in as many variations. Nearly every culture tells the story in one fashion or another - such cultural phenomena as The Fault in Our Stars and Me Before You are recent examples - and it is impossible to find one version that laid the foundation for the rest. From Cupid and Psyche, India's Snake Bride to South Africa's 'Story of Five Heads', the partnering of beast and beauties has beguiled us for thousands of years.
In this fascinating volume preeminent fairy tale scholar Maria Tatar brings together tales from ancient times to the present and from a wide variety of cultures.
No, this is not my usual fare for the blog but I just couldn't pass this up. No, this is not another re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast", despite the cover sticker proclaiming the soon-to-be released movie. What it is, is a collection of different beauty and the beast stories from different countries and continents around the world.
Editor Maria Tatar provides some background and context in her introduction. She talks briefly about our fascination with the "Beauty and the Beast " story and gives a brief history of the version we are most familiar with. She also places the story in context culturally and globally then branches out and discusses the theme and its enduring hold as well as its presence, in varying styles, around the world. She gives us a breakdown of different types of beauty and the beast stories, with reference to mythological and cultural studies. All of this in 20 pages. It's a lot to absorb, and some of the more esoteric as well as clinical aspects went over my head. But if you want some history and some understanding of the story's appeal, it's worth wading through, and reading repeatedly until you understand.
Or, if you just want to read the stories and see what stories other cultures and eras have created, you can just skip the whole introduction, or skim it. Tatar includes her sources for the stories she included, and suggests books and articles for additional reading so if something piques your interest, you can follow up on it.
The stories themselves are arranged into four broad categories of beauty and the beast stories. Each story has a mini intro by Tatar where she gives a brief history of that story and/or relates it to other stories in the collection. Some stories are longish, 4 - 14 pages, and others are just a paragraph or two or maybe a couple of pages. I started out reading in order but inevitably began jumping around. A handful of stories will be familiar to most readers and another handful were familiar to me as over the years I've read many myths and fairy tales from around the world. (Way back in the Stone Age, when I was considering college majors, I seriously considered becoming a mythologist or folklorist.) The majority of stories, though, were new to me. I would debate the inclusion of a couple but overall Tatar has found and included a varied and representative selection from a decent range of countries and cultures. No doubt she could have found more but she had to, as she says in the acknowledgements, make sure she didn't lose her way in the "forest of fairy tales, folktales, and wonder tales".
I enjoyed reading the different stories (Note: Do not expect all of them to have a happy ending or to follow the story forms we are used to in the US and most Western cultures) and getting glimpses into different cultures. And yes, I do feel as if I have a better understanding of the story and its meaning after reading this book. Go forth, read, learn, and enjoy!