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From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers Hardcover – 20 Oct 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st Edition edition (20 Oct. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701135301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701135300
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.5 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 208,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Can itself evoke the sense of startled wonder that these tales first gave us" (Laurel Graeber New York Times)

"She is a terrific writer and an original scholar. This is a landmark book" (Victoria Glendinning Daily Telegraph)

"Just like the tale-tellers she celebrates...she's a weaver of enchantments, each sentence is like a silken knot charming you further into her web of meanings" (Michelle Roberts Independent on Sunday)

"Consistently enlightening...this is a brilliant work: wise, witty and as magisterially omniscient as any Sibylline oracle" (Nicholas Tucker New Statesman and Society)

"Open the book at almost any page and you will find something to fascinate you" (Noel Malcolm Guardian)

Book Description

At once thoroughly enjoyable and academically rigorous, this lively and fascinating study of fairy tales and their social relevance throughout the ages is a modern classic

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
It is hard to believe that this is a text book; it is written beautifully and has become my night-time reading!
Exploring the various roles women assume within fairy tales, Warner shows a marvellous intellect and surprises you at every turn. You thought you knew fairy tales? Guess again. Never will reading the kiddies a bedtime story be the same again.
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Format: Paperback
With an interest in learning more about the changing cultural meanings, and what meanings have remained the same, in fairy tales across generations I bought From the Beast to the Blonde. I was greatly encouraged by the reviews here as to the book's readability whilst retaining a thorough, scholarly approach.

Marina Warner is assuredly knowledgeable in her writing, which speaks of years of investigation into the vast number of variations that have produced the tales people would be familiar with today.

However, when it comes to the writing style, I have to disagree with previous reviews and state that I find it rigorous reading. My expectation was of something a little closer to recent popular history books, such as those by Alison Weir, Jenny Uglow or Richard Aldous, but this is definitely not the case. I find the book has a decidedly academic prose style. This partial quote is from Chapter One of the 1995 edition:

"The legends Antoine de La Sale collected appeared in different forms elsewhere: Fazio degli Uberti (d.1367) had written a poem about Simon Magus, in which the wizard travels to the area to dedicate his grimoire to the pagan oracle; Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (d.1464), who became Pope Pius II, first identified Sibilla with the goddess of love, Venus herself."

The above excerpt is from a twenty-three line paragraph which is dense with references to names and works which would be the first time many non-academic readers (such as myself) would encounter them. That's not to say there is anything wrong with this style of writing, if you are prepared on the subject and find it compatible with the reasons for reading it. I, unfortunately, did not. The prose is just hard work to engage with for the insight it gives.
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Format: Paperback
Whilst investigating fairy tales for an essay, Marina Warner's book was recommended to me, and I have never encountered such a thorough and comprehensive examination of fairy tales and their significance anywhere else! In the first half of the book, Warner discusses the significance of the teller of fairy tales, mostly as female. She examines the fairy tales as expressing ideas of the grandmother attempting to establish security for herself within her children's families, the problems of remarriage and stepmothers (common in the years during which fairy tales were created and retold over and over), adolescent girls attempting to reconcile their opinions of their mother, the Christian ideal of the silent woman and how women attempt to negate that, etc. The second half was for me even more interesting, examining the tales themselves and symbols within the tales, such as animals, hair, witches, etc. Warner covers every influence upon fairytales, from saint's tales to how fairy tales have been retold to promote certain political views. For a comprehensive, easy to read, fun, and engaging examination of fairy tales, there are really only two authors worth thinking about, Jack Zipes and Marina Warner. Buy this book - you will never look at fairy tales in the same way!
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Format: Paperback
a brilliant book of fairytale scholarship. As another reviewer notes, it's difficult to remember you're reading a text book. Marina Warner is witty, clever and engrossing. I initally intended to read solitary chapters for when i had a spare minute- I ended up reading the whole thring to the end with 3 days. I loved that Warner doesn't only focus on the fairytales- she also tells us the story of the tellers themselves and I discovered a whole new side to fairytale scholarship. I would also recommend 'No go The Bogeyman' by the same author, in which gives monsters and bogeys the same treatment as she here gives fairytales.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a review of the book per se rather the current edition of it.

I've loved Marina Warner's book since it came out and I read it at least once a year. My original copy was becoming so dog-eared and full of notes that I decided to buy a new copy. However, it has not been produced to the same standard as the original. It looks like a print-on-demand book with a flimsy cover and nasty, shiny, cheap looking pages. It's also considerably thinner. As far as I can tell the content is the same (including the plates which have just been made smaller or condensed into blocks rather than appearing more freely and illustratively throughout) it just gives the appearance of being less substantial. I understand how increasingly publishers have to default to POD, especially for small print runs, but I was disappointed by the quality of this book. Surely they can do better?

So: 5 star book and if you haven't read it I encourage you to do so; but 1 star for the quality of this particular edition.
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Format: Paperback
In this wonderful, scholarly book, Marina Warner explores the social context, meaning, and metamorphosis of fairy tales - from the Queen of Sheba via Old Mother Goose to the Disney Corporation - and the preoccupations of the people (mainly women) who told them. Rather than treating the stories as `archetypal' tales, Marina Warner returns them firmly to their historical context - a context in which small children really were abandoned in the forest during times of famine, where daughters suffered incest in silence, and where the lives of penniless old women were precarious indeed. As she restores the social context that has been airbrushed away since these tales were written down, she reveals them as they were: coded strategems for survival, triumph, subversion, rebellion. Fairy tales, as she says, have `a generic commitment to justice'.

This is an academic book and the prose is sometimes dense - a small price to pay, in my view, for the breadth and depth of knowledge Marina Warner shares with her readers and for her acute insights and observations. There is barely a chapter in my copy which does not have paragraphs underlined or copious notes in the margins - not because I was using the book to study but because I found it so darned interesting. I particularly enjoyed the second half of the book which deals with the themes that run through the tales: absent mothers, wicked stepmothers, reluctant brides, runaway girls, the language of hair, etcetera.

The original paperback edition has got many fascinating - and sometimes startling - illustrations. The newer edition is much poorer quality and the illustrations suffer as a result. But buy it anyway if you are interested in fairy tales, in cultural history, in the wiles that women have used to galvanize, caution and advise, or in the role that story-telling plays to condition or subvert: this book will bring you both wisdom and delight!
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