cover image Spells of Enchantment: 2the Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture

Spells of Enchantment: 2the Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture

Various. Viking Books, $30 (816pp) ISBN 978-0-670-83053-4

Besides editing this massive volume and translating many of its selections, Zipes, professor of German at the University of Minnesota, has provided a thorough introduction. As one would expect, the tales are of good and evil (and evil is more insidious to modern readers attuned to Freud and the currents of sexism and misogyny); often they use fantasy to come to terms with society, either by superceding the status quo or grudgingly accepting it. Zipes reaches back to the second century to show that the heritage of fantasy in Western culture runs deep. And modern technology has done nothing to dampen inspiration: More than half of the 67 tales collected here were written in the 20th century by such authors as Twain, Strindberg, Rilke, Philip K. Dick, Robin McKinley, Tanith Lee and Stanislaw Lem. Unless one is an aficionado of the genre, however, most of the stories will be unfamiliar, or variations one has never read or heard before. Among the latter are three modern takes on the Snow White tale. The seventh dwarf is the eponymous narrator of the tale by Franz Hessel, while Robert Coover's ``The Dead Queen,'' the most erotic story in the collection, is narrated by Prince Charming. The Bluebeard myth also gets new treatments, courtesy of Thackeray, Anatole France and Sylvia Townshend Warner. Despite the illustrious contributors, the collection has some low spots, but there are enough good entries here to keep readers interested, if not totally enchanted. (Nov.)