Illustrated by Jane Ray. Walker Books, 1999: ISBN 0 7445 6115 9. Walker Books Illustrated Classics (paperback), 2009: ISBN 78-1-4063-1745-9. Walker Books 2016: ISBN 9781406365962
Click here to order Classic Fairy Tales from Wordery. Also available as an ebook.
Fairy stories are enchanted dreams; we remember them as if they had been sung to us when we were under the spell of a long, deep sleep.
Cinderella (Ashputtel) • The Sleeping Beauty in the Forest • Beauty and the Beast • Rumpelstiltskin • Rapunzel • Snow White (Snowdrop) • Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp • The Fire-Bird • Hansel and Gretel • The Frog Price • The Wild Swans
This was a really wonderful commission from Walker Books, and I enjoyed every minute of writing the stories. An even greater joy then was to see the book growing, with the exquisite illustrations of Jane Ray and the inspired design of Amelia Edwards. Every page is decorated, and I feel really privileged to have been invited to be part of this project. The book was shortlisted for the Greenaway Medal, which is the highest award given to an illustrator.
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I chose my favourite stories, in consultation with Jane and my editor Wendy Boase, and went back to early English language sources. Some of these stories have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and belong to many cultures in slightly different forms. I wanted to be true to the original or to the most commonly surviving source. My belief is that when you rewrite a story you don’t meddle with it – you don’t change the ending or what happens to reach that ending – that is the essence of the story, and the reason why it has survived for so long. I would write down the essence of the story, its bones, in five or six sentences. Then I would tell it in my own words, putting in colour or light or warmth or shadows, and the finished story would come to about two thousand words. I tried out every story on the children of Edale school, a couple of miles over the fields from where I live, and then sent it to Jane to see if she would like to illustrate it.
Work in schools
You could try to retell a fairy story too. Write it as simply as possible at first, in not more than ten sentences, then build it up with dialogue and description to make it your own story.
Classic Fairy Tales is dedicated to the memory of Wendy Boase, my editor at Walker Books, whose dream it was and who died before it was completed.
One of the stories that I originally wrote for this book was Jack the Giant-Killer. It didn’t fit in to this collection but I used it as the springboard for my short novel for younger readers, The Famous Adventures of Jack. See its page here. Another fairy tale that I have retold is The Snow Queen, which is published by Scholastic. See its page here.