The Golden-Headed Fish
From The Olive Fairy Book
The Golden-Headed Fish is a fable originating from Armenian folklore. A powerful king loses his eyesight. Only the ointment from the blood of a rare golden-headed fish can cure him. His son finds the elusive creature after 100 days of searching the great sea. But, the prince takes pity on the beautiful animal and in a moment of compassion lets the prize escape.
The enraged king orders his son and heir to be put to death. The queen manages to intervene and the prince escapes. With the queens wise advice ringing in his ears he sets out on a fantastic journey to a distant island paradise which is under threat by a hideous monster. Do you want to know what happens next? Then come join Andrew Lang on a magical journey into The Olive Fairy Book where dreams come alive before your very eyes and no good deed goes unrewarded.
The Fir Tree
From The Pink Fairy Book
“There was once a pretty little fir tree in a wood.” Quite an innocuous beginning to a story, one would think. As you read the story further, you realise it is the story of the pretty little fir tree, and not much else. But towards the latter half, it dawns on you that the story is not just about trees but about ourselves too.
The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen, translated from the German original by Andrew Lang and published in The Pink Fairy Book is a story about growing up. It is also a story about realizing that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
The pretty fir tree has everything it could wish for. However, it constantly wants more. When it sees the other trees being taken off during Christmas, it wants to join them too. Eventually, when it realizes that desire is the cause for all sorrow, it is a little too late. It is then that we realize how similar we are to the pretty little fir tree.
From The Grey Fairy Book
Unhappy with her life, a mother prays to the “Sunball” asking for a little girl. “When she is twelve years old, you may take her back again,” she tells him. In reply, he does send her a daughter whom she names Letiko. Twelve years later, the “Sunball” comes back for the girl. Though her mother tries to shield her by shutting all the doors and windows of the house, closing up all the chinks and holes, she forgets to close the keyhole. The “Sunball” sends a ray into her house and takes the child away. What happens then? Does Letiko find her way home? Find out by reading The Sunchild , a story from The Grey Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.
“The stories, as usual, illustrate the method of popular fiction. A certain number of incidents are shaken into many varying combinations, like the fragments of coloured glass in the kaleidoscope. Probably the possible combinations, like possible musical combinations, are not unlimited in number, but children may be less sensitive in the matter of fairies than Mr John Stuart Mill was as regards music,” the preface to the collection says.
The Story of Sigurd
From The Red Fairy Book
Norse sagas are violent epics about great kings and their heirs who fought and defeated their enemies, be they other kings or magical creatures with enchanted weapons. They face great hardship along the way and the stories do not usually have a happy ending.
The Story of Sigurd is from the Volsunga Saga. An old king is fatally wounded in war and his sword is smashed to bits. With his dying breath, he tells his young queen that she will have a son, and that the son must make a new sword from the father’s broken sword and avenge his death. The queen flees to another kingdom while dressed as a maid, but she is recognised as a queen and treated royally. Soon, she has a son. She names her boy Sigurd. Sigurd is raised by a treacherous tutor who seeks to use the boy for his own gain. But Sigurd learns of his tutor’s schemes from the birds and kills him. This, however, is only the beginning. Sigurd has a long way to go and many hurdles to cross, all of which you can read in Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book .
The Shifty Lad
From The Lilac Fairy Book
Once upon a time, there was a clever boy who after finishing his schooling, decided that he wanted to be a thief. His mother warned him that the only fate for a thief was hanging at the bridge of Dublin. He paid her no heed. One day, she was to attend a sermon by a great preacher and she called the boy along. He told her that he had no interest in attending sermons and promised her that the first trade she heard named, after she came out of the sermon would be his profession for the rest of his life. His mother was a little relieved but the boy was rather clever. He hid himself behind a bush outside the church and as his mother came out, he shouted out “Robbery! Robbery! Robbery!” using a different voice. On returning home, his mother had no choice but to accept the fact that her son was to be a robber. Wanting him to be successful in his profession, she requested the local thief Black Gallows Bird to take her son as his apprentice. Thus begins the exciting journey of the shifty lad who tricked his mother to become a thief. What would become of him? Would he be successful or would his mother’s predictions come true?