Fairy Tales Reviews

Little Jack Horner

Like most fairy tales or nursery rhymes that feature a character named Jack “Little Jack Horner” is up to no good.

In this famous nursery rhyme we have a short tale on opportunism and the reward and gloating that goes along with managing to acquire something valued, in this case a plum.

The text is short and simple enough.

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner,

Eating his Christmas pie;

He put in his thumb,

And pulled out a plum,

And said, “What a good boy am I!”

Many interpretations of this nursery rhyme simply stuck with the opportunistic undertones and the rhyme was often used as social commentary on various people throughout history that took advantage of a situation for personal gain. Remember most nursery rhymes were deliberately vague and written and recited during a time when outright social commentary that named names was at best not a politically smart move and at worst a good way to get yourself be-headed.

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that scholars began to assign the nursery rhyme to a particular event during the Tudor era. King Henry VIII was attempting to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and getting a lot of trouble for it from the Catholic church (after all they gave him special dispensation to marry her in the first place, since she was his brother’s widow). As a result he made himself head of the Church of England and declared England a Protestant nation so that he could divorce and marry who he pleased.

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[openbook booknumber=”9780062001030″][rating:5/5]

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it’s taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

I was surprised and delighted by how much enjoyment I got out of this book. I love fairy tale stories and re-tellings of all stripes but to find one like this was magical indeed and it was such a joy to read. Entwined is a re-telling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in a Victorian era kingdom. There is a castle and balls, there are beautiful dresses and magic, and of course there is lots and lots of dancing. Underneath it all there lurks a danger that threatens to destroy everything.

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The Frog King

When the Grimm brothers got a hold of this tale they went to town changing it to suit their agenda. The Frog King (you might know it as The Princess and the Frog) is a Grimm fairy tale about a princess, a frog and her promise to him that she really doesn’t want to keep. There were many versions before the Grimm one that involved multiple princesses, the youngest of which was the only one to find interest in the frog. The frog promises fresh clean water to each but only the youngest took him up on his offer. When the frog turns up later the princess reminds herself of her promise and keeps it in good faith all on her own. He asks for love and devotion and that devotion was shown by allowing him to sleep under her pillow thus breaking the spell. When he becomes a prince they consummate their love immediately and live happily ever after. Needless to say there was not nearly enough violence and entirely too much immorality (premarital sex!) for the Grimm brothers. So they combined a few fairy tales and added quite a bit to make theirs.

In the Grimm fairy tale The Frog King a princess plays alone at a stream in the woods. She is so lovely that the sun marvels at her beauty. She also is tossing a golden ball at this time because it is her favorite play thing. She accidentally drops the ball into the stream and starts to cry. The frog hops up at this point and says, “What’s going on, princess? Stones would be moved to tears if they could hear you.” She thinks the frog is slimy and repulsive but decides to share her woe about her favorite golden ball. The frog promises to fetch the ball if she would make him her companion. She is shocked at this suggestion for who has a frog as a companion? That’s disgusting! She agrees to it but when the frog gives her the ball she immediately takes it and runs away with the frog calling after her.

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The World Above

[openbook booknumber=”9781442403376″][rating:2/5]

Gen and her twin brother, Jack, were raised with their mother’s tales of life in the World Above. Gen is skeptical, but adventurous Jack believes the stories – and trades the family cow for magical beans. Their mother rejoices, knowing they can finally return to their royal home.

When Jack plants the beans and climbs the enchanted stalk, he is captured by the tyrant who now rules the land. Gen sets off to rescue her brother, but danger awaits her in the World Above. For finding Jack may mean losing her heart…

I realized going into this that The World Above is intended to be a light, fluffy read for young teens. The entire Once Upon A Time series is all made up of fairy tale books retold in a literary manner within a relatively sanitary and safe fairy tale world. Even knowing all this I still took issue with the book because, well, it’s boring.

In The World Above Jack has a twin sister who is the main character of the book. All of the Once Upon A Time books have a female protagonist. Following things from her point of view proves… dull. Jack leaves on the adventure while Gen, the sensible one, stays at home. Weeks pass where Jack climbs a beanstalk, meets a giant and his beautiful normal sized sister, discovers the charged political environment of a different magical world, and brings back a magical goose and sack. But we are not following Jack, we are following Gen. So while all of that is going on “off camera” we are told in great detail about Gen’s adventures cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, and making lists for next years harvest. This proves to contain all of the adventure and excitement one expects from watching paint dry.

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The Ice Maiden

The Ice Maiden is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s longest fairy tales, and also one of his more depressing ones. It stars a young boy named Rudy who was born in the Swiss Alps. His father is dead and his mother journey’s to her father’s house with Rudy nothing but a baby in her arms. On the way she slips and falls into a deep chasm filled with snow. She and the child are buried in it and it is some time before the people they are traveling with can dig them out. By then the mother is dead, though the child miraculously survives.

The child is then taken to his grandfather’s and from there eventually to his uncle’s house where he grows up and becomes strong. He is a talented climber, an excellent mountain guide and a very good hunter. Being a good hunter ends up working to his benefit as it brings him to the notice of the upper class. Little Rudy has grown into a very handsome young man and he has his eyes set on Babette, the miller’s daughter. The miller is less than pleased at Rudy’s attentions and sets an impossible task for him, to climb up to a very dangerous mountain peak and fetch back a baby eaglet alive. Rudy has gotten this far and survived, while climbing and hunting in the dangerous and treacherous Alps, with the staunch belief that if he believes in his success that he will succeed and he takes the attitude to the top of the mountain crag and manages to get the baby eaglet without breaking his neck.

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