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Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction [#550]
Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction [#550]
  • A lively and engaging exploration of fairy tales and their meaning
  • Considers fairy tale as both a genre and a literary form
  • Explores an array of classic and contemporary examples
  • Looks at cultural, social and political influence of fairy tales
  • Reveals how fairy tales use the characteristics of fantasy and imagination
  • Highlights questions of gender, feminism, and psychoanalysis in the fairy tale tradition
  • Considers a number of visual interpretations on stage and screen
  • Originally published in hardback and paperback as Once Upon A Time

From wicked queens, beautiful princesses, elves, monsters, and goblins, to giants, glass slippers, poisoned apples, magic keys, and mirrors, the characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over readers and audiences, both adults and children, for centuries. These fantastic stories have travelled across cultural borders, and been passed on from generation to generation, ever-changing, renewed with each re-telling. Few forms of literature have greater power to enchant us and rekindle our imagination than a fairy tale. 
But what is a fairy tale? Where do they come from and what do they mean? What do they try and communicate to us about morality, sexuality, and society? The range of fairy tales stretches across great distances and time; their history is entangled with folklore and myth, and their inspiration draws on ideas about nature and the supernatural, imagination and fantasy, psychoanalysis, and feminism. In this Very Short Introduction, Marina Warner digs into a rich hoard of fairy tales in all their brilliant and fantastical variations, in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. Drawing on a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding HoodCinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Little Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White, Warner forms a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository of human understanding and culture. 
The Very Short Introductions Podcast: Episode 20 Fairy Tale


1: The worlds of Faery: far away and down below
2: With a touch of her wand: magic & metamorphosis
3: Voices on the page: tales, tellers, & translators
4: Potato soup: true stories/real life
5: Childish things: pictures & conversations
6: On the couch: house-training the Id
7: In the dock: don't bet on the Prince
8: Double vision: the dream of reason
9: On stage and screen: states of illusion
Further reading

About the author: 

Marina Warner's award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Once Upon a Time (OUP, 2014) Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (OUP, 1976; re-issued 2013), Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights (Vintage, 2012), and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (Vintage, 1998). Her Clarendon Lectures Fantastic Metamorphoses; Other Worlds were published in 2001 by OUP; her essays on literature and culture were collected in Signs & Wonders (Vintage, 2000), and Phantasmagoria, a study of spirits and technology, appeared in 2006 (OUP). In 2015 she was awarded the Holberg Prize, and in 2013 she was awarded a Sheykh Zayed Prize and the Truman Capote Award. She was awarded a CBE for services to Literature in 2008. She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy.

Review from previous edition 
"The book is an enchanted material object, and reading a journey toward knowledge and wisdom." - Gramayre

"thoroughly enjoyable and scholarly account" - Times Literary Supplement

"elegantly concise" - Literary Review

"...this is a book to treasure. It really is the perfect introduction to the subject." - Desperate Reader, Hayley Anderton

"wide ranging and handsomely produced" - Rowan Williams, New Statesman

"wise, witty, elegant, little book" - Amanda Craig, Mslexia

"This is a book to treasure." - Helen Parry, Shiny New Books

"Marina Warner's newest book is as pocket-sized and potent as one might expect a short history of fairy tales to be...she manages to be astute without being intrusive...there is sharpness too." - Shahidha Bari, Times Higher Education

"Warner is always intelligent, writes with great elegance and bubbles over with new ideas and impressions. Many will enjoy her style, wide range of literary reference and infectious enthusiasm." - Irish Times

"Marina Warner's new book distills her work on the literary, cultural, psychological and social influence of fairy tales, old and new, into an elegant little volume. From fantasy to feminism - it is all here." - Wall Street Journal

"For such a small book it carries a heavy load, but Ms Warner's insights are both surprising and rewarding." - The Economist

"An expert and intruiging guide to the roots and triffid-like growth of a significant genre" - The Tablet

"a spellbinding cultural tour de force" - The Lady

"Marina Warner is our doyenne of fairy stories ... her scholarly knowledge is not just worn lightly but presented with a flourish" - Amanda Craig, Observer

"her light touch effortlessly imparts knowledge in your mind. A beautifully produced book, this will be a joy to anyone who loves stories." - Patrick Neale, The Bookseller

Product details

ISBN : 9780199532155

Marina Warner
168 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Feb 2018
Very Short Introductions
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Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction [#550]

Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction [#550]

Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction [#550]