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Magical Tales: Myth, Legend, and Enchantment in Children's Books

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A faun carrying an umbrella. A hobbit who makes his home in a hole in the ground. An ill-treated schoolboy with a secret and a scar. Fantasy is among the most beloved genres in children’s literature— and its offerings are often just as eagerly anticipated by adults. But how is it that writers like J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are able to create such remarkable images? M A faun carrying an umbrella. A hobbit who makes his home in a hole in the ground. An ill-treated schoolboy with a secret and a scar. Fantasy is among the most beloved genres in children’s literature— and its offerings are often just as eagerly anticipated by adults. But how is it that writers like J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are able to create such remarkable images? Magical Tales traces the origin of the genre back through Norse mythology, Arthurian legend, and medieval literature. Drawing on manuscripts and rare books in the renowned collection of the Bodleian Library, the essays turn the spotlight on spell books; grimoires, or magical textbooks; and books of legend and myth whose themes writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis incorporated into their work, inspiring generations of writers that extend to the present day. In serving as a source of inspiration for later literary works, the contributors show, myths and legends have themselves been altered in interesting ways. Richly illustrated, Magical Tales offers an enchanting take on the development of this wildly popular genre.


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A faun carrying an umbrella. A hobbit who makes his home in a hole in the ground. An ill-treated schoolboy with a secret and a scar. Fantasy is among the most beloved genres in children’s literature— and its offerings are often just as eagerly anticipated by adults. But how is it that writers like J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are able to create such remarkable images? M A faun carrying an umbrella. A hobbit who makes his home in a hole in the ground. An ill-treated schoolboy with a secret and a scar. Fantasy is among the most beloved genres in children’s literature— and its offerings are often just as eagerly anticipated by adults. But how is it that writers like J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are able to create such remarkable images? Magical Tales traces the origin of the genre back through Norse mythology, Arthurian legend, and medieval literature. Drawing on manuscripts and rare books in the renowned collection of the Bodleian Library, the essays turn the spotlight on spell books; grimoires, or magical textbooks; and books of legend and myth whose themes writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis incorporated into their work, inspiring generations of writers that extend to the present day. In serving as a source of inspiration for later literary works, the contributors show, myths and legends have themselves been altered in interesting ways. Richly illustrated, Magical Tales offers an enchanting take on the development of this wildly popular genre.

45 review for Magical Tales: Myth, Legend, and Enchantment in Children's Books

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Atwell

    A celebration of all things Oxford, but also a clever blend of scholarship and visual imagery, 'Magical Tales' examines the ways in which myth and folklore become springboards for the imagination in children's fantasy literature. Of course Tolkien, Lewis and Pullman are here, but the research interests of the five contributors offer enough signposts to set the reader off on their own personal quest. My favourite things? Alan Garner's handwriting (closely followed by Tolkien's); a 1947 postcard wr A celebration of all things Oxford, but also a clever blend of scholarship and visual imagery, 'Magical Tales' examines the ways in which myth and folklore become springboards for the imagination in children's fantasy literature. Of course Tolkien, Lewis and Pullman are here, but the research interests of the five contributors offer enough signposts to set the reader off on their own personal quest. My favourite things? Alan Garner's handwriting (closely followed by Tolkien's); a 1947 postcard written in runic to the latter; the 1857 edition of 'The Heroes of Asgard' with an illustration reminiscent of John Tenniel; the links between chivalry and World War I explored by Anna Caughey in her essay on the the reinvention of the Arthurian legend; the same essay's suggestion that the Malory theme of the 'bel inconnu' is echoed in Harry Potter; the magical moving books from the eighteenth-century harlequinade to the Victorian sentiments of Ernest Nister......there is just so much joy here in the discovery of new pathways to follow and enjoy that I could go on forever. And I haven't even mentioned one of my favourite academics, Carolyne Larrington (one of the book's editors), who contributes a chapter on Norse myth and Germanic heroic legend, which inspired Wagner's operatic Ring cycle and arguably, George Martin's Game of Thrones. I just wish that I'd seen the 2013 exhibition at the Bodleian Library that accompanied the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    T.E. Shepherd

    This was the accompanying catalogue to the brilliant Magical Books exhibition that has been running this year at Oxford's Bodleian Library and has been every bit as enjoyable and interesting. It's a book that celebrates all that I love about my favourite stories, but it also details so many other stories that I am aware of but have not read, but worse, it also reveals a whole host of stories that I have been shamefully been unaware of. This book should come with a health warning though. I defy yo This was the accompanying catalogue to the brilliant Magical Books exhibition that has been running this year at Oxford's Bodleian Library and has been every bit as enjoyable and interesting. It's a book that celebrates all that I love about my favourite stories, but it also details so many other stories that I am aware of but have not read, but worse, it also reveals a whole host of stories that I have been shamefully been unaware of. This book should come with a health warning though. I defy you to read a single chapter - or essay - without asking already half a dozen books to your To Read Pile.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Warren Rochelle

    Magical Tales is a book for the scholar of children's literature of fantastic, especially if one is interested in exploring its roots in myth and legend and in medieval literature. But, given that this book accompanied an exhibit of manuscripts and drawings of Tolkien, Lewis, and Pullman at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, it is also accessible to the museum-goer who may or may not be a scholar. However, given the references to so many works of children's fantasy, the editors, Diane Purkiss and C Magical Tales is a book for the scholar of children's literature of fantastic, especially if one is interested in exploring its roots in myth and legend and in medieval literature. But, given that this book accompanied an exhibit of manuscripts and drawings of Tolkien, Lewis, and Pullman at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, it is also accessible to the museum-goer who may or may not be a scholar. However, given the references to so many works of children's fantasy, the editors, Diane Purkiss and Carolyne Larrington, and the authors of the individual chapters, are assuming these museum-goers are well read and fans of the fantastic, if not scholars. I enjoyed it very much. The topics range from a discussion of books of magic (and books as magic), to a discussion of the influence of Northern or Norse mythology, the magical Middle Ages, once and future Arthurs, to early movable books for children. Would I have enjoyed it as much if I had not read so many of the children's fantasies examined and referenced? Probably not, but this is not meant to be an introduction to such literature for those who haven't read it. There are other books for that purpose--or rather, go to the sources, the books themselves, and the myths and the legends, of the Norse gods, of Merlin and Arthur. True, this is an introduction, a survey as it were, but the Notes at the end, and the texts referenced and discussed give the interested reader direction as what to read next, or where to begin reading. Books are indeed magical. These fantasies are, as "Lytton would have it, [be] 'Beloved as Fable' yet also in some important symbolic ways, 'believed as Truth' "(151). Recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Frida Andreasson

    For a non-fictional book this was a very pleasant read. I liked some chapters more than others (I liked chapters 1-3. Chapters 4 and 5 I skimmed) because they were about topics that I like and am familiar with. It has to do with how medieval tales and norse mythology comes back in new writing and how some of the great writers of fantasy have been inspired by the old stories and used them in their own writing. This is something they have done to an extent that is greater than I previously known a For a non-fictional book this was a very pleasant read. I liked some chapters more than others (I liked chapters 1-3. Chapters 4 and 5 I skimmed) because they were about topics that I like and am familiar with. It has to do with how medieval tales and norse mythology comes back in new writing and how some of the great writers of fantasy have been inspired by the old stories and used them in their own writing. This is something they have done to an extent that is greater than I previously known and it makes it increasingly clear that fanfiction is something that is as old as story telling itself.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Halley

    Excellent. Published as an accompaniment to the 2013 exhibition "Magical Books" at Oxford's Bodleian Library, it contains essays that connect five of the authors whose association with Oxford's libraries is best known--C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, and Philip Pullman--with the materials that inspired them. Makes me really sad to have missed said exhibition, being all the way over here on the wrong side of the pond. Excellent. Published as an accompaniment to the 2013 exhibition "Magical Books" at Oxford's Bodleian Library, it contains essays that connect five of the authors whose association with Oxford's libraries is best known--C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, and Philip Pullman--with the materials that inspired them. Makes me really sad to have missed said exhibition, being all the way over here on the wrong side of the pond.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pamala Hansford

  7. 4 out of 5

    BV Srinivas

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frances

  9. 5 out of 5

    GeraniumCat

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jade

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pearl Penumaka

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Buchanan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Theis

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trudy

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    Aravind P

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron P.

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    Andy

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    Alison

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    Michael Whitman

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    Anna Russell Thornton

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    Igraine

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    Nancy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chantal Grech

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lee

  31. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

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    Paul Johnson

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    Amy

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    Jasmin Kocaer

  35. 4 out of 5

    Joestanfield

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    Melissa

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    Erica

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    Jenny Schwartzberg

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    Erin Horáková

  40. 4 out of 5

    Titash

  41. 4 out of 5

    Sydney Renee

  42. 4 out of 5

    Kris

  43. 4 out of 5

    COM Library Rarian

  44. 4 out of 5

    Dead

  45. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Sas

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