University of Delaware Library


Fables and Fairy Tales


Probably the earliest written stories known to children were Aesop's Fables. The tales were collected and written down as early as the fourth century B.C. The Fables were one of the first books printed; an Italian edition of 1474 still exists. While not specifically written for children, their brevity and wit quickly captured the imagination, and their morals made adults view them as appropriate for young people.

Sir Roger L'Estrange, 1616-1704.
Fables, of Æsop: and other eminent mythologists: with morals and reflexions. London: R. Sare, 1694.

In addition to the fables and the morals, L'Estrange added "reflections" which further discussed the moral issues involved in the stories.

The Fables of Aesop, and others. Newcastle: Printed by E. Walter, for T. Bewick and son. Sold by them, Longman and Co., London, 1818.

The illustrations for this edition were done by Thomas Bewick, the great English wood-engraver. Bewick was particularly known for his images of animals.

The Childs Illuminated Fable-book. London: William Smith, 1847.

The use of chromolithography and the pseudo-mediaeval design reflects the craze at the middle of the nineteenth century for ornate gift books. Improvements in color printing technology made it possible to produce multicolored plates inexpensively.

Fairy Tales

Fairy tales, which had been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition, were first collected and published in France in the seventeenth century. The stories that are most familiar to us today--"Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Red Riding Hood," and "Puss in Boots," are derived from the Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Tales of long ago) collected by Charles Perault in 1697. The frontispiece of the early editions which pictured an old woman telling stories to a group of children was entitled "Contes de mère l'oye" (tales of mother goose), a folk expression meaning an "old wives tale." Even after being collected and published, fairy tales contined to evolve: sometimes appearing as a horror story, others as a cautionary tales; sometimes clearly for adults, other times edited for children.

The Pleasant and Delightful History of Jack and the Giants. Nottingham: Printed for the Running Stationers, 1790.

An early chapbook version of the fairy tale.

Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper. Baltimore: Wm. Raine, 1840.

This inexpensive edition of the classic story has been crudely hand-colored.

George Cruikshank, 1792-1878.
Fairy Library, London: David Bogue and George Routledge and Sons, 1853.

The four tales in Fairy Library: "Hop O' My Thumb and the Seven League Boots," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Cinderella," and "Puss in Boots," were rewritten by Cruikshank to reflect his strong feelings against alcohol. For example, the Giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk" owes his ruin to drink.

Charles Perrault, 1628-1703.
Les contes de Perrault; dessins par Gustave Dore. Paris: J. Hetzel, 1862.

The illustrations for Perrault's Tales by Gustave Doré are the best known of all the nineteenth century fairy tale illustrations. The frontispiece of the early editions, picturing an old woman telling stories to a group of children, was entitled "Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye" (Tales of Mother Goose), a folk expression meaning an "old wives tale."

Lydia Louisa Anna Very, 1823-1901.
Red Riding Hood. Boston, Mass.: L. Prang, 1863.

An early example of a shape book, the entire book is cut into the shape of Red Riding Hood.

Jacob Grimm, 1785-1863.
German Popular Stories. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: J.C. Hotten, 1868.

The Brothers Grimm who collected and published this collection of European folktales between 1812 and 1822, also created the first scientific studies of the German language, mythology, and law. For German Popular Stories, they collected over two hundred stories from friends, storytellers, and old books as a way of holding onto the myths and folklore of the Germanic people. Although the stories generally ended happily, they were filled with violence and trickery which have delighted children but disturbed many moralists and educators up to the present day.

Andrew Lang, 1844-1912.
The Princess Nobody: a Tale of Fairy Land. after the drawings by Richard Doyle; printed in colours by Edmund Evans. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1884.

Lang wrote The Princess Nobody at the request of a publisher who wanted a new text for the pictures Richard Doyle had done for In Fairyland (1869). Working with the images in mind, Lang wove together motifs from traditional and literary fairytales. A folklorist as well as a writer he believed, "Nobody can write a new fairy tale; you can only mix up and dress the old stories and put characters into new dresses."

Howard Pyle, 1853-1911.
The Wonder Clock, or, Four & Twenty marvelous Tales: being one for each hour of the day. New York: Harper, 1887.

"I put on my dream-cap one day and stepped into Wonderland." Thus begins this collection of fairy tales and verse by Howard Pyle--artist, writer, teacher, and Delawarean--who wrote and illustrated adventure stories enjoyed by both children and adults for generations. Pyle's illustrations are full of excitment and vitality; his stories retain an old-fashioned quality, yet are clearly written and easy to follow.

Katharine Pyle, 1863-1938.
Where the Wind Blows; being ten fairy-tales from ten nations. New York: R.H. Russell, 1902.

Katharine Pyle wrote a series of books based on tales and myths from around the world. Where the Wind Blows was illustrated by Bertha Corson Day, a Delawarean and student of Howard Pyle, Katharine's elder brother.

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, 1863-1944.
The Sleeping Beauty and other Fairy Tales from the old French. illustrated by Edmund Dulac. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1910.

Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), emphasized a subtle use of color rather than line and often used Oriental or other exotic motifs to bring a sense of romanticism to his illustrations. He was also a successful stage designer.

Jacob Grimm, 1785-1863.
Little Brother & Little Sister and Other Tales by the Brothers Grimm; illustrated by Arthur Rackham. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1917.

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) was the most successful of the early twentieth-century English fantasy artists. Sixteenth-century German artists, Albrecht Dürer and Albrecht Altdorfer inspired Rackham, as did the Pre-Raphaelites and Art Nouveau. Rackham illustrated over ninety books, primarily classics and fairy tales; but he is best known for his illustrations for Peter Pan.

Peter Christen Asbjornsen, 1812-1885.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon; Old Tales from the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen. New York: G. H. Doran Company, 1922.

This Norwegian fairy tale, collected and first published by Peter Asbjornsen in English in 1849, has a plot similar to that of "Beauty and the Beast." Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) illustrated the story in an art nouveau style which, while atmospheric and evocative, is aimed more at adult readers than children. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, advances in color printing technology made possible the production of deluxe picture books with multicolor illustrations on glossy paper tipped into the book. These were considered to be "gift" books, to be collected and admired, but not handled and read by young children.

Introduction Early Works Books of Instruction Primers Poetry Popup and Movable Books Stories before 1850 Stories after 1850


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