The Lang's Fairy Books are a series of 25 collections of true and fictional stories for children published between 1889 and 1913. The best known books of the series are the 12 collections of fairy tales also known as Andrew Lang's "Coloured" Fairy Books or Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors. In all, the volumes feature 798 stories, besides the 153 poems in The Blue Poetry Book.
Andrew Lang (1844–1912) was a Scots poet, novelist, and literary critic. He initially edited the series and wrote prefaces for its entire run, while his wife, the translator and author Leonora Blanche Alleyne, known to friends and family as Nora, assumed editorial control of the series in the 1890s . She and other translators did a large portion of the translating and retelling of the actual stories, as acknowledged in the prefaces. Four of the volumes from 1908 to 1912 were published by "Mrs. Lang".
According to Anita Silvey, "The irony of Lang's life and work is that although he wrote for a profession—literary criticism; fiction; poems; books and articles on anthropology, mythology, history, and travel ... he is best recognized for the works he did not write."
The 12 Coloured Fairy Books were illustrated by H. J. Ford (Henry Justice Ford)—the first two volumes shared with G. P. Jacomb-Hood and Lancelot Speed respectively, and the sequels alone. A. Wallis Mills also contributed some illustrations.
|The Langs' Fairy Books|
The Blue Fairy Book
The Red Fairy Book
The Blue Poetry Book
The Green Fairy Book
The True Story Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Red True Story Book
The Animal Story Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Arabian Nights' Entertainments
The Red Book of Animal Stories
The Grey Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Book of Romance
The Crimson Fairy Book
The Brown Fairy Book
The Red Romance Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Olive Fairy Book
The Red Book of Heroes
The Lilac Fairy Book
The All Sorts of Stories Book
The Book of Saints and Heroes
The Strange Story Book
|Illustrator||Henry J. Ford (and others)|
|No. of books||25|
The best-known volumes of the series are the 12 Fairy Books, each of which is distinguished by its own color. The Langs did not collect any fairy tales from oral primary sources, yet only they and Madame d'Aulnoy (1651–1705) have collected tales from such a large variety of sources. These collections have been immensely influential; the Langs gave many of the tales their first appearance in English. Andrew selected the tales for the first four books, while Nora took over the series thereafter. She and other translators did a large portion of the translating and retelling of the actual stories.
Lang's urge to gather and publish fairy tales was rooted in his own experience with the folk and fairy tales of his home territory along the Anglo-Scottish border. British fairy tale collections were rare at the time; Dinah Craik's The Fairy Book (1869) was a lonely precedent. According to Roger Lancelyn Green, Lang "was fighting against the critics and educationists of the day" who judged the traditional tales' "unreality, brutality, and escapism to be harmful for young readers, while holding that such stories were beneath the serious consideration of those of mature age". Over a generation, Lang's books worked a revolution in this public perception.
The series was immensely popular, helped by Lang's reputation as a folklorist and by the packaging device of the uniform books. The series proved of great influence in children's literature, increasing the popularity of fairy tales over tales of real life. It inspired such imitators as English Fairy Tales (1890) and More English Fairy Tales (1894) by Joseph Jacobs. Other followers included the American The Oak-Tree Fairy Book (1905), The Elm-Tree Fairy Book (1909), and The Fir-Tree Fairy Book (1912) series edited by Clifton Johnson, and the collections of Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith.
Some of Lang's collected stories were included without any attribution at all (e.g., "The Blue Mountains"), and the rest are listed with brief notes. The sources can be tracked down when given as "Grimm" or "Madame d'Aulnoy" or attributed to a specific collection, but other notes are less helpful. For instance, "The Wonderful Birch" is listed only as "from the Russo-Karelian". Lang repeatedly explained in the prefaces that the tales which he told were all old and not his, and that he found new fairy tales no match for them:
But the three hundred and sixty-five authors who try to write new fairy tales are very tiresome. They always begin with a little boy or girl who goes out and meets the fairies of polyanthuses and gardenias and apple blossoms: "Flowers and fruits, and other winged things". These fairies try to be funny, and fail; or they try to preach, and succeed. Real fairies never preach or talk slang. At the end, the little boy or girl wakes up and finds that he has been dreaming.
Such are the new fairy stories. May we be preserved from all the sort of them!
The collections were specifically intended for children and were bowdlerised, as Lang explained in his prefaces. J. R. R. Tolkien stated in his essay "On Fairy-Stories" (1939) that he appreciated the collections but objected to his editing the stories for children. He also criticized Lang for including stories without magical elements in them, with "The Heart of a Monkey" given as an example, where the monkey claims that his heart is outside his body, unlike "The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body" or other similar stories. However, many fairy tale collectors include tales with no strictly marvelous elements.
The first edition consisted of 5000 copies, which sold for 6 shillings each. The book assembled a wide range of tales, with seven from the Brothers Grimm, five from Madame d'Aulnoy, three from the Arabian Nights, and four Norwegian fairytales, among other sources. The Blue Fairy Book was the first volume in the series, and so it contains some of the best known tales, taken from a variety of sources.
Media related to Blue Fairy Book at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to The Red Fairy Book at Wikimedia Commons
Contains 153 poems by great British and American poets.
In his Preface to this volume, Lang expressed the view that it would be "probably the last" of the collection. Their continuing popularity, however, demanded subsequent collections. In The Green Fairy Book, the third in the series, Lang has assembled stories from Spanish and Chinese traditions.
Media related to Green Fairy Book at Wikimedia Commons
Contains twenty-four true stories, mainly drawn from European history.
Media related to The true story book (1893) at Wikimedia Commons
Its initial printing was 15,000 copies. The Yellow Fairy Book is a collection of tales from all over the world. It features many tales from Hans Christian Andersen.
Media related to The yellow fairy book (1906) at Wikimedia Commons
Contains sixty-five stories about animals. Some of them are simple accounts of how animals live in the wild. Others are stories about pets, or remarkable wild animals, or about hunting expeditions. Many are taken from Alexandre Dumas.
Media related to The pink fairy book (1897) at Wikimedia Commons
Contains forty-six stories about real and mythical animals. Some of them are simple accounts of how animals live in the wild. Others are stories about pets, or remarkable wild animals, or about hunting expeditions.
Romania, Japan, Serbia, Lithuania, Africa, Portugal, and Russia are among the sources of these 35 stories that tell of a haunted forest, chests of gold coins, a magical dog, and a man who outwits a dragon.
Media related to The Violet Fairy Book at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to The book of romance (1902) at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to Brown Fairy Book at Wikimedia Commons
Includes 33 tales from Jutland, Rhodesia, Uganda, and various other European traditions.
Media related to The Olive Fairy Book (Andrew Lang) at Wikimedia Commons
Contains thirty stories on a variety of subjects, including true stories, Greek myths, and stories from Alexandre Dumas, Walter Scott and Edgar Allan Poe.
Contains twenty-three stories about saints. Most of these are true stories, although a few legends are also included.
Published after Andrew Lang's death, with an introduction by Mrs. Lang. Contains thirty-four stories on a variety of subjects, including ghost stories, Native American legends, true stories, and tales from Washington Irving.
A Tale Of The Tontlawald (Estonian: Tontla mets) is an Estonian fairy tale collected by Dr. Friedrich Kreutzwald in Eestirahwa Ennemuistesed jutud. W. F. Kirby included it, as "The Wood of Tontla" in The Hero of Esthonia. Andrew Lang included it in The Violet Fairy Book; he listed his source as Ehstnische Märchen, which was the German translation of Kreutzwald's work, by F. Löwe.Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang (1844–1912) was a Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology. He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. The Andrew Lang lectures at the University of St Andrews are named after him.Blockhead Hans
"Blockhead Hans" (Danish: Klods-Hans) is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.
It was first published in Danish in 1855. An early English translation appeared in Andrew Lang's 1894 The Yellow Fairy Book, although Lang gave no source for the tale.
The tale has been variously translated as "Clumsy Hans", "Silly Hans" and "Jack the Dullard".
It is number 119 in the Hans Christian Andersen's register of Andersen's literary works.Frederick Richardson
Frederick Richardson (1862 – 15 January 1937) was an American illustrator of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, best remembered for his illustrations of works by L. Frank Baum.Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald
Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (26 December [O.S. 14 December] 1803 – 25 August [O.S. 13 August] 1882) was an Estonian writer who is considered to be the father of the national literature for the country. He is the author of Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg.Henry Justice Ford
Henry Justice Ford (1860–1941) was a prolific and successful English artist and illustrator, active from 1886 through to the late 1920s. Sometimes known as H. J. Ford or Henry J. Ford, he came to public attention when he provided the numerous beautiful illustrations for Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, which captured the imagination of a generation of British children and were sold worldwide in the 1880s and 1890s.List of 19th-century British children's literature titles
This is a list of 19th-century British children's literature titles, arranged by year of publication.Mogarzea and his Son
Mogarzea and his Son is a fairy tale included by Andrew Lang in The Violet Fairy Book. The source was Mite Kremnitz, Rumänische Märchen : Mogarzea und sein SohnStan Bolovan
Stan Bolovan is a Romanian fairy tale collected in Rumänische Märchen by Mite Kremnitz (1882). Fairy tale collector Andrew Lang included it in his The Violet Fairy Book (1901). Versions of the tale were later retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders in A Book of Dragons (1965) and A Choice of Magic (1971), and by Christopher Rawson in The Usborne Book of Dragons (1979).The Boy Who Found Fear At Last
The Boy Who Found Fear At Last is a Turkish fairy tale collected by Ignaz Kunos in Türkische Volksmärchen. Andrew Lang included it in The Olive Fairy BookThe Child who came from an Egg
The Child who came from an Egg or The Egg-Born Princess (Estonian: Munast sündinud kuningatütar) is an Estonian fairy tale, collected by Dr. Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald in Eestirahwa Ennemuistesed jutud. William Forsell Kirby included a synopsis of it in The Hero of Esthonia as "The Egg-Born Princess." Andrew Lang included it as "The Child who came from an Egg" in The Violet Fairy Book; he listed his source as Ehstnische Märchen, which was the German translation of Kreutzwald's work, by F. Löwe.The Crow (fairy tale)
The Crow is a Slavic fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Yellow Fairy Book.The Golden Bird
"The Golden Bird" is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, number 57, about the pursuit of a golden bird by a gardener's three sons.A French version, collected by Paul Sébillot in Littérature orale de la Haute-Bretagne, is called Le Merle d'or (The Golden Blackbird). Andrew Lang included that variant in The Green Fairy Book (1892).It is Aarne-Thompson folktale type 550, "The Golden Bird", a Supernatural Helper. Other tales of this type include The Bird 'Grip', The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener, Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf, How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon, and The Nunda, Eater of People.The Lute Player
The Lute Player — or The Tsaritsa Harpist — is a Russian fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Violet Fairy Book (1901).It is Aarne-Thompson type 888 The Faithful Wife.The instrument actually described in the fairy tale is a gusli.The Nunda, Eater of People
The Nunda, Eater of People is an abridged version of a Swahili fairy tale titled "Sultan Majnun", collected by Edward Steere (1828-1882) in Swahili Tales, as told by natives of Zanzibar (1870). Andrew Lang included it in The Violet Fairy Book (1901).
It is Aarne-Thompson type 550, the quest for the golden bird/firebird.The Prince Who Wanted to See the World
The Prince Who Wanted to See the World is a Portuguese fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Violet Fairy Book.The Six Swans
The Six Swans (in German : Die sechs Schwäne) is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm as tale number 49. Andrew Lang included a variant in The Yellow Fairy Book. It is Aarne–Thompson type 451: the brothers who were turned into birds. Other tales of this type include The Magic Swan Geese, The Seven Ravens, The Twelve Wild Ducks, Udea and her Seven Brothers, The Wild Swans, and The Twelve Brothers.The Three Princes and their Beasts
The Three Princes and their Beasts is a Lithuanian fairy tale included by Andrew Lang in The Violet Fairy Book. The actual source was Von den drei Brüdern und ihren Thieren from August Leskien und K. Brugman, in Litauische Volkslieder und Märchen (1882).Virgilius the Sorcerer
Virgilius the Sorcerer is a fairy tale about the poet Virgil by Andrew Lang who included it in The Violet Fairy Book.