Classic Fairy Tales

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.

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.

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.


  • Alexander N. Afanashev (1826–71) The Fire-Bird
  • Hans Christian Andersen (1805–75) The Wild Swans
  • Antoine Galland (1646–1715) Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp
  • Brothers Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm (1805–1875) Grimm, (Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Rumpelstilskin, The Sleeping Beauty in the Forest and Snow White)
  • Madame Le Prince de Beaumont (1711-80) Beauty and the Beast

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.

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