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A Bouquet: Of Czech Folktales Hardcover – 1 Dec 2012


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Erben legends 10 May 2013
By Edward - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Karel Jaromír Erben (1811 - 1870) was a Czechoslovakian scholar and archivist who, like the Brothers Grimm in Germany, collected fairy tales and folk stories from the heritage of his native country, his most famous contribution being this book "A Bouquet of Czech Folktales". I became acquainted with this author through the prolific Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, who, along with his symphonies, concertos, chamber music, and operas, wrote several symphonic poems, four of which are based on Erben's collected tales. (The English translator Marcela Malek Sulak has written an interesting forward in which she describes how she handled the difficulties of this translation.)
These are stories better suited for adult consideration than as bedtime entertainment for children. You think the Brothers were grim, Erben was if anything more graphic. For instance, "The Water Sprite" tells how a girl falls (accidently?) into a stream and is abducted by the title character. Eventually she gives birth to his green-haired baby and at that point wants to go back home to mother. The goblin follows her to the cottage, saying he wants someone to look after the child, but the girl's mother tells him to bring the child to them to be cared for. Enraged, the Water Sprite decapitates the baby, then throws its head and torso against the cottage door. So much for bedtime. Similarly, "The Golden Spinning Wheel" (which is my favorite of Dvořák's symphonic poems) has a prince who, traveling through a forest, encounters a lovely maiden and decides to take her to his castle as his wife. But the girl's step-mother and step-sister come at her with knife and axe, cutting off her arms and legs and gouging out her eyes; then the step-sister replaces the girl as the prince's intended ... taking her victim's arms, legs, and eyes with her! A mysterious hermit creates a beautiful spinning wheel for the castle and its price is: two arms, two legs, two eyes. Once the hermit has these, he recreates the lovely maiden, who can then take her rightful place as princess, the spinning wheel itself having revealed the step-sister's wickedness.
These are only two examples of Erben's strange fables, some of which are really more mood pieces than narratives, and they make an arresting addition to any library of folklore. (I use the word "fables", though you won't find any talking animals.) The tales are illustrated by Alén Divís, a tragic Czech of the 20th Century who produced dark (in every sense of the word) oils and water colors. His haunted vision here contributes perfectly to Erben's stories from another nether world.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A kin to Grimm 7 April 2013
By Eleanor Almaraz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
These Folktales read like forgotten chapters of the brothers Grimm. These stories are virtually unknown in the United States and it made me so happy to find goblin tales I've yet to read. The story of the Noon Witch and The Water Goblin were obviously the inspiration for the movie Labyrinth. They have inspired me as well.
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