Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mother Goose - The B Sides

Almost everyone knows the stories of Cinderella, Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Puss-in-Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood. But do you know the stories of Diamonds and Toads or Ricky? Despite their current obscurity, these two tales were included in Charles Perrault's Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé - better known today by its subtitle Les Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye or Mother Goose Tales.

Certainly Andrew Lang thought "Diamonds and Toads"- published as "Les Fées" or "The Fairies" in Perrault - was of interest as he included it in his Blue Fairy Book (London, New York: Longmans, Green, 1889). It tells the story of two sisters who encounter a fairy at a well. One sister is kind to the fairy and the other is insulting. The kind sister is granted the gift of having a precious object - a jewel, diamond or flower - fall from her mouth whenever she speaks. The rude sister is cursed with toads and snakes whenever she utters a word. A classic tale with the standard moral of "be kind to strangers as you never know who they might be."

So why have these tales faded while the others have stayed in the mainstream? Were they like the b-sides or deep cuts from the days of vinyl -  interesting to the hard-core fan, but not really the main attraction? Or have other tales with similar stories and morals eclipsed them?

Our earliest copy of Mother Goose is from 1697 and maintains that it was printed in Paris. However, the catalog record indicates that it was printed in Amsterdam and was essentially an unauthorized pirate copy of the real Paris edition.

Ask for Rare Book PQ 1877 .C513 1697 to read this early Mother Goose - in French of course! The Blue Fairy Book can be had by asking for Sine Illus F66blu.

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