Marina Warner

From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers

Non-Fiction Monograph

Vintage (paperback) London, 1994
Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (1995)
UK Chatto & Windus (hardback) UK;
Farrar, Straus & Giroux (hardback & paperback) US

In this landmark study of the history and meaning of fairy tales, the celebrated cultural critic Marina Warner looks at storytelling in art and legend – from the prophesying enchantress who lures men to a false paradise, to jolly Mother Goose with her masqueraders in the real world. Why are storytellers so often women, and how does that affect the status of fairy tales. Are they a source of wisdom or a misleading temptation to indulge romancing.

Warner interprets the history of old wives’ tales from sibyls and the Queen of Sheba to Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Angela Carter. And with fresh new insights she shows us the real-life themes in the famous stories, which, she suggests, are skillful vehicles by which adults have liked to convey advice, warning, and hope – to each other as well as to children.

Reviews

‘Consistently enlightening…this is a brilliant work: wise, witty and as magisterially omniscient as any Sibylline oracle’

Nicholas Tucker, New Statesman and Society

‘As befits its subject, it is something of splendour - marvellous, bizarre, exotic-but at the same time as familiar as porridge. It’s crammed full of goodies…and profusely illustrated…It is also simply essential reading for anyone concerned, not only with fairy tales, myths and legends, but also with how stories of all kinds get told.’

Margaret Atwood, Los Angeles Times Book Review

‘Warner’s book has a tremendous sweep of reference from classical and medieval beliefs about women’s tale-spinning powers to the case of Salman Rushdie. It reproduces scores of historical artworks and images from modern popular culture to illustrate the endless migration of symbols and plots from lore to pictures and back…Everyone is certain to learn something from such an impressive package of history and cultural observation.

Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

‘Open the book at almost any page and you will find something to fascinate you.’

Noel Malcolm, The Guardian

Other editions

First published by Vintage, 1994