Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Book nostalgia seems to be the theme for the week, so here's your chance to get in. I think the focus will be on children's books this time, since that's what we've been discussing. Either share it in the combox, or leave a comment with a link to your blog post.

Here's a page of bibliobilia from my own library:

When I was seven I had chicken pox, along with my siblings, the neighbors, and everyone else, since in the dark ages before the vaccine children had the pox and lived to exchange the war stories. Of course we were miserable, and as the severity of the cases increased with age, I was the unhappiest of the lot. Quarantined from school, I scratched glumly and assiduously picked every strand of cotton ball from my pinkly calamined spots, which were legion. But this was not enough to still the itching frenzy in my breast, so I flipped angrily through one of my favorite books, a tattered collection of The Brothers Grimm with marvelous illustrations by Fritz Kredel.

I liked the obscure stories: Jorinda and Joringel, Iron Hans, and my favorite, The Goose Girl. The Goose Girl is really a princess who has a talking horse named Falada, but her wicked serving woman steals the magical protection the princess's mother gave her. Then the serving woman, posing as the princess, marries the prince (who's never seen either girl to know the diff) and has Falada killed and his head hung over a gate. The poor princess is given the task of herding geese, and every day must pass under Falada's head. When they meet, she always says, "Alas! Poor Falada!" and he replies, "Ah, princess, if thy mother could but see thy fate, her noble heart would surely break." (Or something like that.)

After the princess torments her young co-herder, a swain named Conrad, by making the wind blow his hat around while she combs her hair, Conrad complains about the strange girl to the King. His Majesty, intrigued, summons the goose girl and orders her to explain herself, but she had been forced to swear to the serving woman that she would never reveal her story to any person. The King offers her an alternative: she should spill her sorrows to the stove. And so she does, while he listens in at the stovepipe.

And so, at a large banquet the next day, the King tells the story in a slightly disguised fashion, and asks the serving woman how such treachery should be punished. She, either too arrogant to know when she's in trouble or fighting like a wounded beast backed into a corner, declares that such a traitor should be stuffed into a barrel studded with nails and rolled through the town. "You have decreed your own doom," proclaims the King, and so the rightful princess is restored to the Prince, who (in a twist I thought, even at that young age, to be rather unfair) gets to bed both women with no stigma attached. If it had been the Princess who'd married a false prince, she'd have been tainted goods even if the mistake was none of her fault.

But Grimm's did not console me in the time of chicken pox, and so, in a fit of itchy peevishness, I did the unthinkable: I colored in the book. With orange and green crayon. I sulkily tinted several illustrations before the magnitude of my iniquity dawned on me and I quietly tucked the book back on the far end of the shelf. But of course, it was too late, and every time hence I had to confront what pox had wrought. Despite the garish decorations, I read the book until it fell apart.

Last December, as I was doing my customary last-minute wander through stores, wishing I'd bought presents more than two days before Christmas, I came upon a Grimm's Fairy Tales on the bargain table in the children's section of Barnes and Noble. The treacly cover was a bit repellent, but I always flip through a Grimms on principle, searching for the lost volume of my youth. And there it was, in reprint. And so it now resides in our house, and my own girls can pore over the delightful illustrations.

Though I'm tempted to buy a vintage edition with the cover I remember so well:


Banshee said...

I'm so glad you like Jorinda and Joringel!

Our copy of Grimm was extremely ugly on the outside, and not much better on the inside. Also, huge. Intimidating. But I did eventually read them all, including the stories about Jesus and St. Peter, and Death. The only one we didn't have was The Juniper Tree. (I guess the cannibal cookpot thing was too much for the editors.)

The version of Goose Girl about Charlemagne's parents is better - no hankypanky with the false princess, IIRC.

We had a beautiful copy of Once Long Ago, though, a collection of fairy tales from around the world with truly incredible illustrations. And Larousse's Mythology, which back then was awesome but now is vastly dumbed down (although the African section is better now).

JMB said...

My sisters and I used to listen to the "Let's Pretend" records when the babies were napping and our absolutely favorite story was Goose Girl! We loved it. You have a remarkable memory, I don't think I could have summed it up so well:) Thanks for the memories!

Lauren said...

I remember being scared of Grimms as a kid. My mother read Cinderella to me, and the violence (feet chopped off, or something like that) was too much for my sensitive little self. I'm much more jaded now, and I should go back and read them.

Enbrethiliel said...


The Goose Girl is one of my favourites as well! =D A cousin and I once got into a fight over the right way to pronounce Falada. (I said FA-la-da. She said Fa-LA-da. But her version sounded better, so these days, I say Fa-LA-da.)

You know, I never thought about the prince getting to bed two wives before this. =P But then again, he really doesn't have much personality in the story, does he? (I owned one retelling which made it clear that he wasn't very happy with the imposter, but still treated her with the respect he believed his wife deserved. But that's really all I know about his character.) It's the king who is the real hero who saves the princess.

Gail F said...

My mother had a wonderful old book called "Granny's Wonderful Chair" that I read over and over, and I read it to my daughter as well... It was about this little girl who lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother went on a trip and told her to take care of herself and, every night, put her head on the seat and say, "Chair of my grandmother, tell me a story." And of course she had an adventure with the chair, which ended up telling its amazing stories to a king and his court. They were not like any other fairy stories I have ever read, and some are still my favorites!

The book, like the Lloyd Alexander Taran books and the two Princess and the Goblin books (also favorites!), had a rather melancholy end... A happy ending, but then a few paragraphs about how it all ended again and unhappiness came back.

LOVED The Princess and the Goblins. MacDonald certainly had some wild ideas! I love her grandmother, who was simultaneously old and young, and the fire made of roses...

JohnJ said...

I have just recently stumbled on to your blog and find your on going discussion of reading fare so interesting. Sounds to me like your homeschooling experience was a little more than "laissez faire. Perhaps your parents, like mine, emphasized the spiritual over the academic. In the end I found that I indeed got or caught what I needed with a very strong faith to boot.

What kind of records did your mother have? Were they albums or 45's?

laura t. said...

looks like you have a beautiful edition of the fairy tales book with franz kredel's illustrations! i did a small post about his work ( but my copy of the book is too mangled to scan without destroying it. let me know if you ever get around to scanning more illustrations!