|John Murray Press|
20 January 2022
My thanks to the publishers and Emma at the Book Publicist for my copy of this book
Fairy-Tales are not just fairy-tales: they are records of historical phenomena, telling us something about how Western civilisation was formed. In The Fairy Tellers, award-winning travel-writer Nick Jubber explores the secret history of fairy-tales: the people who told them, the landscapes that forged them, and the cultures that formed them.
While there are certain names inextricably entwined with the concept of a fairy-tale, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the most significant tellers are long buried under the more celebrated figures who have taken the credit for their stories - people like the Syrian storyteller Youhenna Diab and the Wild Sisters of Cassel. Without them we would never have heard of Aladdin, his Magic Lamp or the adventures of Hansel and Gretel.
Tracking these stories to their sources carries us through the steaming cities of Southern Italy and across the Mediterranean to the dust-clogged alleys of the Maghreb, under the fretting leaves of the Black Forest, deep into the tundra of Siberia and across the snowy hills of Lapland.
From North Africa and Siberia, this book illuminates the complicated relationship between Western civilisation and the 'Eastern' cultures it borrowed from, and the strange lives of our long lost fairy-tellers.
📖 My thoughts..
For me, there is something endlessly fascinating about fairy tales. I've loved them since I was old enough to listen and still enjoy reading tales from enchanted forests, of witches and princesses, princes and demons. That the stories span history and continents, folklore and legend, is what makes each fairy tale so unique.
In The Fairy Tellers the author takes us a comprehensive journey into this magical world of landscape and culture, explaining the history behind the stories, the inspiration and the beguiling nature of tales from storytellers which have been handed down generation by generation until they have become as intrinsic a part of our collective culture as the air we breathe.
Reading like a travelogue and breaking down the book into seven distinct parts we get to learn more about the origins and connections of some of our well known fairy tales. I especially enjoyed the fairy story which heads each chapter and which whisk us away to a magical world. The quirky line drawings which are interspersed within the text also add a lovely sense of atmosphere.
Beautifully written, extensively researched, and as descriptive as a history book, I found The Fairy Tellers completely absorbing. Dipping into and out of the book, at whim, I discovered things I didn't know about the origins of the long lost fairy-tellers, those shadowy people, whose bright imagination once brought all our classic fairy tales to vibrant life.
You can read an interview with the author by clicking here
Best read with...a glass of milk and chocolate chip cookies
Nicholas Jubber has travelled in the Middle East, Central Asia, North and East Africa and across Europe. Along the way, he has worked as a teacher, carpet-washer and even had a stint as a tannery assistant. He has written three previous books, The Timbuktu School for Nomads, The Prester Quest (winner of the Dolman Travel Book Award) and Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (shortlisted for the Dolman Award). He has written for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Observer, Globe and Mail, Irish Times and BBC History.
Twitter @jubberstravels #TheFairyTellers