“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein
Anita Silvey (The Essential Guide to Children's Books) said, "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."
Fairy Book History:
Victorians favored realistic and instructive stories for children. In the late 19th century, interest in the native fairy tales of Britain had declined and there were very few books recounting them for young readers.
In fact, fairy tales and magical stories in general were being attacked by some educationalists as being harmful to children. Lang - who had taken pleasure in nursery rhymes and folktales since childhood - challenged this notion by collecting and editing fairy stories for the first of his "colored fairy books", The Blue Fairy Book (published in 1889).
Whilst other folklorists collected stories directly from source, Lang set about gathering those stories which had already been recorded. This gave him time to collect a much greater breadth of fairy tales from all over the world, most from well-known writers such as The Brothers Grimm, Madame d’Aulnoy and others from less well known sources. Whilst Lang also worked as the editor for his work and is often credited as its sole creator, the support of his wife, who transcribed and organized the translation of the text, was essential to the work’s success.
It's a Reading Rainbow of Books!
You can see the contents of each book here. The names and publication dates of Lang’s 12 "Fairy Books" are as follows:
- The Blue Fairy Book – 1889
- The Red Fairy Book – 1890
- The Green Fairy Book – 1892
- The Yellow Fairy Book – 1894
- The Pink Fairy Book – 1897
- The Grey Fairy Book – 1900
- The Violet Fairy Book – 1901
- The Crimson Fairy Book – 1903
- The Brown Fairy Book – 1904
- The Orange Fairy Book – 1906
- The Olive Fairy Book – 1907
- The Lilac Fairy Book – 1910
A Thirteenth "Fairy Book"? Lang's very own work...
Did you happen to notice the title of the book pictured at the top of my post? My Own Fairy Book was written by Andrew Lang, "made up altogether from his own head" (as the introduction says), and published in 1895. Lang said he always felt "rather an impostor" because "so many children seem to think" he wrote the twelve fairy books. You can read "My Own Fairy Book" online, here, on Project Gutenberg.
If you especially love fairies, go here to read my past post, "I Do Believe in Fairies, I Do! I Do!".