Children’s Books, Fairy Tales, and Fantasies

The Color Fairy Books

Lang is still most famous for this twelve-book collection of fairy tales. While Lang is sometimes criticized for putting his name on the outside of these books when so much of the work within them was compiled and translated by others, it should be noted that Lang gave credit to his contributors in each of his prefaces (frequently his wife, Leonora Blanche Lang), as well as disclaiming authorship of these stories in the prefaces to his own original fairy tales. Putting his name on the outside of the colored fairy books was a successful branding technique. (For more on Leonora Blanche Lang’s particular contributions to each book, click here.)

  • The Blue Fairy Book (1889) (This Internet Archive scan is of the 1922 new edition by Longman’s, Green, and Co. of New York. Unless otherwise noted, all scans below are from Internet Archive. Researchers should also be aware that it is worthwhile to find a hard copy of the 1889 large-paper edition, where Lang has written a longer introduction. The Bodleian Library at Oxford and the Lilly Library at Indiana University both own a copy, and it is available in other places.)
  • The Red Fairy Book (1890) (This scan is the 1907 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy. There is also a rare large-paper edition with a separate introduction.)
  • The Green Fairy Book (1892) (This scan is the 1906 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy. There is also a rare large paper edition. )
  • The Yellow Fairy Book (1894) (This scan is is the 1906 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy.) The preface is interesting for its reference to Mr. G. Laurence Gomme, president of the Folk Lore Society, who had criticized Lang’s collections for children. There is also a rare large paper edition)
  • The Pink Fairy Book (1897) (This scan is the 1904 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy.)
  • The Grey Fairy Book (1900) (This scan is from the 1905 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy.)
  • The Violet Fairy Book (1901) (This scan is from the 1906 New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy.)
  • The Crimson Fairy Book (1903) (This is the New York Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy.)
  • The Brown Fairy Book (1904) (This is the New York Longman’s Green, and Co. 1914 copy.)
  • The Orange Fairy Book (1906) (This is the Longman’s, Green, and Co. copy, published in London, New York, and Toronto.)
  • The Olive Fairy Book (1907) (Longman’s, Green, and Co.: London, New York, Bombay, and Calcutta)
  • The Lilac Fairy Book (1910) (Longman’s, Green, and Co.: New York, London, Bombay, and Calcutta)

Wikipedia does have a list of all of the stories in each of these fairy books, as well as in some of the other collections published under the Lang brand.

Original Fairy Stories by Lang

  • The Princess Nobody (illustrated by Richard Doyle, Longman’s, Green, and Co. 1884). This text was written to serve the illustrations rather than the other way around. The scans are from http://www.childrenslibrary.org.
  • The Gold of Fairnilee (Arrowsmith [Bristol], Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. [London], [1888])
  • Prince Prigio (J.W. Arrowsmith, [1889])
  • Prince Ricardo of Pantouflia, Being the Adventures of Prince Prigio’s Son (Arrowsmith [Bristol]; Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, and Kent [London], [1893])
  • The Adventures of Prince Prigio and of his son Prince Ricardo (New York: A. L. Burt Company, n.d.)
  • My Own Fairy Book (Arrowsmith/Longman’s, Green, and Co., 1895), which includes Prince Prigio, Prince Ricardo, and The Gold of Fairnilee. The preface, “To Children” is worth reading for researchers interested in Lang and Fairy Tales.
  • Tales of a Fairy Court (London: Collins Clear Type Press, 1907). Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. Tales of a Fairy Court sandwiches Prince Prigio, beginning before Prigio’s birth, summarizing Prince Prigio, and then telling further stories. There are slight inconsistencies among the stories. The Table of contents contains the following headings:
    King Grognio’s Adventure
    Prigio and the Fairy Presents
    How the Giant Came for Prince Prigio
    Prince Prigio and the Giant’s Daughter
    The Magician who Wanted More
    Prince Prigio’s Falcon
    The False Waiting Maid

     

Other Children’s Book Collections and Stories

Because these collections are less well known and their prefaces and introductions much less frequently read, I add quotations and summary of some interesting ideas from these.

The Blue Poetry Book (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1891) [The link goes to the 1912 version from Internet Archive. A rare large paper edition exists.] In the introduction, Lang remarks that he chose the poetry selections based on “recollections of what particularly pleased himself in youth. As a rule, the beginner in poetry likes what is called ‘objective’ art—verse with a story in it, the more vigorous the story the better.” Lang writes that he would have added still more ballads, but he feared that parents would object to some of the content, and there was also “reason to dread that the volume might become entirely too Scottish. . . . In this book . . . intended for lads and lassies, the poems by Campbell, by Sir Walter Scott, by Burns, by the Scottish song-writers, and the Scottish minstrels of the ballad, are in an unexpectedly large proportion to the poems by English authors. The Editor believes that this predominance of Northern verse is not due to any exorbitant local patriotism of his own. The singers of the North, for some reason or other, do excel in poems of action and of adventure, or to him they seem to excel” (vii). Lang also notes his decision to limit the number of poems that are actually about children: “It does not appear to the Editor that poems about children, or especially intended for children, are those which a child likes best. A child’s imaginative life is much spent in the unknown future, and in the romantic past. He is the contemporary of Leonidas, of Agincourt, of Bannockburn, of the ’45; he is living in an heroic age of his own, in a Phæacia where the Gods walk visibly. The poems written for an about children, like Blake’s and some of Wordsworth’s, rather appeal to the old, whose own childhood is now to them a distant fairy world, as the man’s life is to the child” (x–xi).

The True Story Book (1893) [Later The Blue True Story Book] In the introduction, Lang notes his “diffidence” in giving children true stories, as they “are not so good as fairy tales. They do not end happily, and, what is worse, they do remind a young student of lessons and schoolrooms. . . . But the editor vows that he does not mean to teach anybody, and he has tried to mix the stories up so much that no clear and consecutive view of history can possibly be obtained from them; moreover, when history does come in, it is not the kind of history favoured most by examiners. They seldom set questions on the conquest of Mexico, for example” (ix–x). Lang gives attribution to the people to whom he is indebted for help in the writing and condensing of the stories given on pages xiii–xiv.

The Red True Story Book (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1895). The introduction to this book consists entirely of Lang’s attributions—who wrote the stories and what sources they used for them.

The Animal Story Book (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896) [The link leads to the 1904 version on Internet Archive.] The preface begins with an odd paragraph that may be particularly interesting to readers of Tolkien’s “On Fairy-stories,” where Tolkien distinguishes the fairy story from the beast fable: “Children who have read our Fairy Books may have noticed that there are not so many fairies in the stories after all. The most common characters are birds, beasts, and fishes, who talk and act like Christians. The reason of this is that the first people who told the stories were not very clever, or, if they were clever, they had never been taught to read and write, or to distinguish between Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral. They took it that all things were ‘much of a muchness:’ they were not proud, and held that beast and bird could talk like themselves, only, of course, in a different language.” Lang’s first two sentences merely state an interesting fact, later noted by Tolkien. Lang’s third and fourth sentences demonstrates the talking down to children that is present in some, though not all of Lang’s prefaces to books for children. Scholars should consider carefully how seriously to take statements Lang makes in such prefaces; his ideas on how one should talk to children may not always reflect his actual opinions on the subjects discussed. Lang’s perception of his audience leads to generalizations that oversimplify and occasionally even contradict Lang’s periodical writing for adults and his more scholarly studies. (These, too, of course, have their contradictions, some of which—but not all—can be explained by the fact that Lang changed his mind over time as he examined further evidence. For the progress of one such change, I recommend Marjorie Wheeler-Barclay’s chapter on Lang in The Science of Religion in Britain, 1860–1915.) In the Animal Story Book, attributions to story writers appear on page ix, with ten contributors listed alongside their stories/translations and “All the rest are by Mrs. Lang.”

The Nursery Rhyme Book (London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1897). Lang’s preface (pp. 7–19) tells of his childhood reading habits: “To read the old Nursery Rhymes brings back queer lost memories of a man’s own childhood. One seems to see the loose floppy picture-books of long ago, with their boldly coloured pictures. The books were tattered and worn, and my first library consisted of a wooden box full of these volumes. And I can remember being imprisoned for some crime in the closet where the box was, and how my gaolers found me, happy and impenitent, sitting on the box, with its contents all round me, reading. There was “Who Killed Cock Robin?” which I knew by heart before I could read, and I learned to read (entirely ‘without tears’) by picking out the letters in the familiar words” (7–8). Lang goes on to discuss many other individual nursery rhymes and the historical or legendary figures there described, tracing their origins when he can, as well as discussing the riddles, counting rhymes, lullabies, and nonsense.

The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment (1898). (A rare large paper edition of this book exists.) In his preface, Lang writes, “Now ‘The Arabian Nights,’ some of which, but not nearly all, are given in this volume, are only fairy tales of the East. The people of Asia, Arabia, and Persia told them in their own way, not for children, but for grown-up people. There were no novels then, nor any printed books, of course; but there were people whose profession it was to amuse men and women by telling tales. They dressed the fairy stories up, and made the characters good Mahommedans, living in Bagdad or India. The events were often supposed to happen in the reign of the great Caliph, or ruler of the Faithful, Haroun al Raschid, who lived in Bagdad in 786–808 A.D. The vizir who accompanies the Caliph was also a real person of the great family of the Barmecides. He was put to death by the Caliph in a very cruel way, nobody ever knew why. The stories must have been told in their present shape a good long while after the Caliph died, when nobody knew very exactly what had really happened. . . . Probably the tales were written down about the time when Edward I. was fighting Robert Bruce. But changes were made in them at different dates, and a great deal that is very dull and stupid was put in, and plenty of verses. Neither the verses nor the dull pieces are given in this book” (x–xi). Lang gives a condensed history of how they tales arrived to France and England: “People in France and England knew almost nothing about ‘The Arabian Nights’ till the reigns of Queen Anne and George I., when they were translated into French by Monsieur Galland. Grown-up people were then very fond of fairy tales, and they thought these Arab stories the best that they had ever read” (xi). Lang notes that the current version is translated and condensed from Galland, that “the stories are shortened here and there, and omissions are made of pieces only suitable for Arabs and old gentlemen. The translations are by the writers of the tales in the Fairy Books, and the pictures are by Mr. Ford” (xii). Lang also notes that he originally read “The Arabian Nights” at age six “in dirty yellow old volumes of small type with no pictures, and I hope children who read them with Mr. Ford’s pictures will be as happy as I was then in the company of Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor” (xii).

The Red Book of Animal Stories (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899). This book includes, among other tales, that of “The Phoenix,” “Griffins and Unicorns,” “Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel’s Mother” and “Beowulf and the Fire Drake.” There are also true stories of more recent individual animals. Lang writes, “Now all the stories are not true; at least, we never meet the Phoenix now in any known part of the world. To be sure, there are other creatures, such as the Mastodon and the Pterodactyl, which are not found alive anywhere, but their bones remain, turned into stones or fossils. . . . However, the bones, now stones, show that there were plenty of queer beasts that have died out. Possibly the sight of the stone beasts and birds made people believe, long ago, in such creatures as Dragons, and the water-bulls that haunt the lochs in the Highlands” (ix). The stories are attributed on pages x–xi, with the “stories about these unscientific animals . . . told by Mr. H. S. S. Everard . . . . the stories about Foxes are by Miss B. Grieve. . . . Most of the other tales are written by Mrs. Lang, and are as true as possible. . . . Miss Blackley also did some of the stories” (xi).

The Book of Romance (Longmans, Green, and Co. 1902) [The Internet Archive version is dated 1903.] Lang writes this preface to adults rather than children: “It is to be supposed that children do not read Prefaces; these are Bluebeard’s rooms, which they are not curious to unlock. A few words may therefore be said about the Romances contained in this book. In the editor’s opinion, romances are only fairy tales grown up. The whole mass of the plot and incident of romance was invented by nobody knows who, nobody knows when, nobody knows where” (v). Lang’s sources are attributed on pages viii–ix, and he notes on the latter page that “All the romances are written by Mrs. Lang, except the story of Grettir the Strong, done by Mr. H. S. C. Everard from the saga translated by Mr. William Morris.”

The Story of the Golden Fleece (Charles H. Kelly, 1903) [Juvenile Audience.] See this entry in WorldCat.

The Red Romance Book (Longmans, Green, and Co, 1905) As Lang notes in the short preface (twice, pp. vi and viii), “All the stories in this book were done by Mrs. Lang, out of the old romances” (viii). Nonetheless, Lang’s preface is very much worth reading, particularly for his references to George MacDonald’s David Elginbrod (“I once read a book about a poor little lonely boy in a great house with a large library” [v]) and George Meredith’s The Egoist (“Here is the beginning of a celebrated novel: ‘Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social life, and it deals with human nature in the drawing-rooms of civilised men and women.’ You do not want to read any more of that novel. It is not at all like a good old romance of knights and dragons and enchanted princesses and strong wars. The knights and ladies would not have looked at such a book, all about drawing rooms” (vii). Lang mentions neither MacDonald nor Meredith by name. In this preface, Lang is again writing to a child audience.

The Story of Joan of Arc (London: T.C. and E.C. Jack, 1906, The Children’s Heroes Series, edited by John Lang) The dedication to Angela Cottrell-Dormer is worth reading.

Tales of Troy and Greece (Longmans, Green, 1907) (Dedicated to H. Rider Haggard, no preface or introduction). See also The Adventures of Odysseus (London: J. M. Dent and Sons; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1907, 1964, which contains only the first story from the earlier book but which has an editor’s note by Roger Lancelyn Green. Green calls Lang’s retelling “the best and most authentic version that has ever been written for young readers” (vii).

The Book of Princes and Princesses (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1908) This book reads “By Mrs. Lang” [in large type], with “Edited by Andrew Lang” in smaller type directly below that. Lang begins his preface, “All the stories about Princes and Princesses in this book are true stories, and were written by Mrs. Lang, out of old books of history. There are some children who make life difficult by saying, first that stories about fairies are true, and that they like fairies; and next that they do not like true stories about real people who lived long ago. I am quite ready to grant that there really are such things as fairies, because, though I never saw a fairy, any more than I have seen the little animals which lecturers call molecules and ions, still I have seen people who have seen fairies—truthful people. Now I never knew a lecturer who ventured to say that he had seen an ion or a molecule. . . . In fact, if we did not believe in fairy stories, who would care to read them? Yet only too many children dislike to read true stories, because the people in them were real, and the things actually happened. Is not this very strange? And grown-ups are not much wiser. They would rather read a novel than Professor Mommsen’s ‘History of Rome’!” (vii).

The Red Book of Heroes (Longmans, Green, and Co. 1909) This book is also signed “By Mrs. Lang. Edited by Andrew Lang.” As usual Andrew Lang writes the preface, which, for the most part, tells in short some of the tales from the book. Lang does start with one of his common preface tropes: “‘Life is not all beer and skittles,’ said a reflective sportsman [Thomas Hughes in chapter two of Tom Brown’s School Days (1857)], and all books are not fairy tales. . . . there is another side to things and we must face it. “‘Life is real, life is earnest,’ as Tennyson tells us,’ said an orator to whom I listened lately, and though Longfellow, not Tennyson, wrote the famous line quoted by the earnest speaker, yet there is a good deal of truth in it” (vi).

The All Sorts of Stories Book (1911) [Signed “By Mrs. Lang. Edited by Andrew Lang.”] The preface describes many of the stories in the book, several of which involve people being hanged for offenses which they may or may not have committed, and surviving. Lang references “The Fairchild Family, by Mrs. Sherwood, where the good Mr. Fairchild took his naughty children to see a body of a murderer hanging in irons, so that they might know what to expect if they let their angry passions rise. This was what people call an ‘object lesson,’ but your dear papa cannot give you this kind of lesson now, because in our fields there are now no such disgusting objects” (v–vi). Lang also shows his familiarity with Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (which he mentions by name), writing of two people who disappeared that perhaps they had met Boojums: “People at the Zoological Gardens may tell you that there are no Boojums, and certainly they have none there. But this is a foolish argument, for, while many people have seen Boojums, of course they cannot describe these creatures, for they themselves vanish away, and are not able to speak or write” (viii–ix). Lang ends with “The stories were written, as they are given here, by Mrs. Lang; we hunted for and caught them in all sorts of books” (xi).

The Book of Saints and Heroes (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912) [Signed “By Mrs. Lang. Edited by Andrew Lang.” In this preface, Andrew Lang to a great extent equates fairy tales, Greek mythology, and the fantastic elements of the lives of the saints. He tells the story of a native of New Caledonia, known to his cousin Jim, who accidentally kissed a fairy and therefore knew he must die in three days (and did) (v–vi). Lang writes, “Thus there are fairies, you see, in the far-away isles, and Louis Stevenson heard of them often, and men see them, and fall in love with them; so of course they believe in fairies, though they are grown up. . . . Why, when a young Greek in Homer’s time met a pretty girl in the forest he always began by asking ‘Are you a fairy, or are you a goddess?’ It was the regular thing to do. Consequently, these pleasant people of long ago mixed up fairies with their religion. The stories about the Greek gods and goddesses are merely fairy tales; some are pretty, and some are not at all nice.

“Now when Christianity came first to be known to the Greeks and Romans, and Germans and Highlanders, they, believing in fairies and in all manner of birds and beasts that could talk, and in everything wonderful, told about their Christian teachers a number of fairy tales. This pleasing custom lasted very long. You see in this book what wonderful stories of beasts and birds who made friends with saints were told in Egypt about St. Anthony, and St. Jerome with his amiable lion, and St. Dorothea, for it was an angel very like a fairy that brought to her the fruits and flowers of paradise. These Saints were the best of men and women, but the pretty stories are, perhaps, rather fanciful” (vi–vii). [See also the April 1886 “At the Sign of the Ship.]

The Strange Story Book (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913) [Signed “By Mrs. Lang. Edited by Andrew Lang.” Published posthumously to Lang’s July 1912 death, this book has a frontispiece signed picture of Lang in fishing gear. The preface “To the Children” begins, “And now the time has come to say good-bye; and good-byes are always so sad that it is much better when we do not know that we have got to say them. It is so long since Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood came out to greet you in the ‘Blue Fairy Book.’ that some of you who wore pigtails or sailor suits in those days have little boys and girls of your own to read the stories to now, and a few may even have little baby grandchildren. . . . Now as this is the very last book of all this series that began in the long long ago, perhaps you may like to hear something of the man who thought over every one of the twenty-five, for fear lest a story should creep in which he did not wish his little boys and girls to read” (vii). After several anecdotes, including the fact that Lang very much wanted to do a ghost story book but was afraid mothers would not approve (ix), the preface ends with a “poem which should have gone into the very first Fairy Book, but by some accident was left out.” (xi).

Repackagings of Earlier Stories

Tales of the Round Table, Based on the Tales in the Book of Romance Edited by Andrew Lang (Longmans, Green, 1908)

The Marvellous Musician and Other Stories (Longmans, Green, 1909) [These are stories taken from the Red, Crimson, Grey, and Violet Fairy Books.] See in WorldCat.

Old Friends Among the Fairies: Puss in Boots and Other Stories. Chosen from the Fairy Books (1926). See in WorldCat.

Tartan Tales From Andrew Lang (New York: Longmans, Green, 1928) edited by Bertha L. Gunterman. See in WorldCat.

Scholarly Editions of Fairy Tales

Perrault’s Popular Tales (Clarendon Press, 1888)

Lang also wrote the introduction to Margaret Hunt’s Grimm’s Household Tales (1884).

For more on Lang’s scholarship regarding fairy tales, see the pages on Lang’s book publications on Fairy Tale Scholarship, on Folklore, and on Myth, as well as many of Lang’s periodical writings.

Other Fantasies

That Very Mab, cowritten with May Kendall (1885, Longman’s, Green, and Co.)

Translations

Johnny Nut and the Golden Goose. Done into English from the French of Charles Deulin (Longmans, Green, 1887). Lang’s dedication reads, “To Mistress Dorothea Thorpe, MADAM, Like the Sultan in the Arabian Nights—and, sure, you are no less despotic—you have sometimes commanded me to ‘tell you a story.’ It has been my privilege to obey; but, alas! when my toil was ended, with a stretch of absolute authority you have bidden me ‘tell you another.’ Truly, Madam, the Ocean of the Streams of Story, whereof the Hindoos speak, will speedily be drained dry by your Slave, who now presents you with this little Tale, which he has conveyed from French Flanders. If it amuses your leisure as much to read, as it has diverted mine to translate it, I shall have the enjoyment which attends successful enterprise, and I remain, MADAM, Yours very humbly to command  A. L.”

This page was last updated February 28, 2018.