Tuesday, December 08, 2009

More Books That Remind Me of My Childhood . . .

I have a hard time getting rid of old books.  Actually, not just old books, but old toys, paper ephemera, etc.  Each item that I've saved is connected with a memory.  Since memories help to make us who we are, I feel that if I part with something old of mine that is connected with a memory, than that memory will eventually fade away and a part of my life will be gone.  I guess my sentimental nature also plays a role in my desire to save things.  Because of this, I still have in my possession, most of the books that I owned as a child.

Two books that hold memories of my childhood are two different Deluxe Golden Books - "The Fairy Tale Book," and "The Snow Queen and Other Tales."  "The Fairy Tale Book" was a Christmas gift to me from my parents in 1961.  I know the year, because my mother inscribed it on the title page.  It says "Vincent from Mother and Dad," but even though my father is mentioned, I know that this book was my mother's idea.  She always claimed that she believed in fairies, so fairy tales were very special to her.  I was a little over six years old on that Christmas.  After all of my presents had been opened, I remember taking this oversized storybook back to my bedroom and spending a long time looking at the beautiful illustrations by Adrienne Ségur.  The cover on this book is another of those illustrations that I use to love to stare at, studying the details, imagining what was going on in the scene. At that age, I still believed in the possibility of finding a magical tea party taking place beneath the gnarled roots of a tree.

The book contains 28 traditional stories from all over the world.  The cover illustration comes from the story "The Seven Crow Princes," a Brothers Grimm tale.  All of the illustrations in the book are very sumptuous and filled with wonderful details, like the woodland plants and the costumes seen in the illustration from "Bright, Deardeer, and Kit," by Madame la Comtesse de Ségur (above left) or the finery worn by the cat in this illustration from "Queen Cat," by Madame d'Aulnoy.

A year or two after I received that book, I received a companion volume called "The Snow Queen and Other Tales," with more tales translated by Marie Ponsot and illustrations once again by Adrienne Ségur.  The stories in this book are from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and a selection of traditional Russian fairy tales.  The last half of the book is filled by "The Nutcracker," by Alexandre Dumas.  The cover illustration is from that story.

The Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Snow Queen" has always been a favorite of mine.  My first exposure to the tale was from a 1957 Russian animated film that was dubbed in English with the voices of Sandra Dee as Gerda, Tommy Kirk as Kay, Louise Arthur as the Snow Queen and with an English prologue by Art Linkletter.  The animation in this film was beautiful and I found the tale very haunting.  I think my obvious enjoyment of this film is probably what prompted my mother to give me this volume.  On the right is an illustration from "The Snow Queen."

"The Fairy Tale Book" was reissued five or six years ago with a slightly altered title, "The Golden Book of Fairy Tales," but it is the same book and it is readily available. "The Snow Queen and Other Tales" has also been reissued but with a different cover illustration.  This time the illustration is one chosen from "The Snow Queen," (and not "The Nutcracker," which was featured on the original cover) which makes sense considering the title of the volume.  Unfortunately "The Snow Queen" volume seems to have already gone out of print and is only available in very expensive used copies. 

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