A while ago, I mentioned a book of fairy tales I used to read as a kid. On a recent trip to my parents’ house, I found, and snagged, the pair.
I also did not tell my mom I was doing this. The story explaining why is long and complicated, but as an example, my mom has a candle I want. She’s had it for like twelve years, or some such nonsense, and has never lit it. It’s not fancy. It’s a cranberry scented Body Shop candle. I’ve asked for it several times because I like the way it smells and it’s one of the few scented candles I can burn without an allergic reaction. They no longer make this particular candle, so I can’t just go buy it. I have yet to be allowed to take the candle. It sits in a drawer collecting dust. She doesn’t do it to be mean; she just always thinks she’ll find a use for things. Imagine the battle to borrow a couple books that have been in the family for 30+ years. Subterfuge as a path to expediency. I love my mom, I really do, but sometimes, she’s a little neurotic. And she’ll never notice.
So, these books are just two of the many, many, many Reader’s Digest volumes my family owns. I read tons of these books as a teenager, but these ones have been part of my life since I was much younger. My parents used to read these stories to me and once I was able to read, I read them on my own. Most of the stories have an illustration some are pretty, some are creepy.
The books contain some more traditional stories – Puss in Boots, Hansel and Gretel, Blue Beard, Twelve Dancing Princesses (my favourite) – but they also contain much more abstract stories – Why the Sea is Salt, The Six Swans, The Colony of Cats. But these aren’t the Disney version of the stories. There are some weird ass stories in here. The book contains stories from all over the world (translated into English -obvs) so there are lots of stories I may not have had access to otherwise.
The Colony of Cats is about a bunch of cats that live together and employ humans as their servants. They dip one of the girls into a pot of melted gold and a star blossoms on her forehead. But for another unkind girl, they dip her in a pot of oil and a donkey tail grows out of her forehead. I have no idea what culture this story originated in, but I remember liking it a lot as a kid. I read it multiple times.
I went back and read it as I was writing this and realized how much better these stories are when read aloud. They contain such a great cadence and flow. Oral tradition is something we’re losing as information becomes more and more readily accessible. There’s an idea that information will never be lost if we can back them up, but they lose something in the translation. I look forward to reading some of these to the kids in my life.