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Fables and Fairy Tales. 0042: The Stories of Prince Lupin, The Yellow Dwarf, Little George, and Little Red Riding-Hood

Author: Various (Charles Perrault, Marie Catherine d'Aulnoy and Catherine Talbot)
Title: The stories of Prince Lupin, The yellow dwarf, Little George, and Little Red Riding-Hood
Cat. Number: 0042
Date: No date but c.1808-1840
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: Edinburgh
Publisher: Oliver and Boyd, Tweeddale-Court
Price: 4d
Pages: 1 vol., 35pp.
Size: 14 x 8.5 cm
Illustrations: Decorated front cover, frontispiece plus eight further wood engravings

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0042

Introductory essay

The four tales in the volume have various origins. One - 'Little Red Riding Hood' - is too well-known to need much of an introduction. Its first recorded publication was in 1697 as one of Charles Perrault's Contes de ma mre l'oye. The version reproduced here is abridged, but retains all the main elements of the tale as well as a surprising number of the smaller details - the gaffer wolf, for instance, or the custard and butter entrusted to Red Riding Hood. (For a discussion of the tale see the essay accompanying 0027, 0028 and 0029). Two other tales included here share a pedigree almost as old as Little Red Riding Hood's. Both 'The Yellow Dwarf' and 'Prince Lupin' originally appeared in 1698 in the fourth volume of Countess Marie Catherine d'Aulnoy's Contes nouveaux ou Les Fées la mode. 'The Yellow Dwarf' formed one of the inset tales in her novel Don Fernand de Tolde. 'Prince Lupin' originally appeared under the name 'La Chatte blanche' and has remained much more familiar in English as 'The White Cat'.

'The Story of Little George' belongs to a very different tradition of fairy tale. It was written by Catherine Talbot (1721-1770), author and 'blue-stocking'. The Talbots were an eminent ecclesiastical family, and after her father's death, which occurred before she was born, Catherine was taken into the family of Thomas Secker, later Archbishop of Canterbury. He supervised her education and later introduced her to the 'best society'. She became friends, and a life-long correspondent, with Elizabeth Carter. Talbot wrote throughout her life, but not even Carter could persuade her to put her work before the public. It was only in 1770, after Talbot's death, that Carter brought out an edition of her friend's 'Reflections on the Seven Days of the Week', which became hugely successful. Other works followed, both singly and in collected editions, and were still appearing half a century after her death. 'The Story of Little George' might have been written at any time during her life. It first appeared in a collected edition of her work at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and thereafter turned up in a variety of locations. In 1822, for example, it was appended to an edition of one of the classic moral-religious conduct books of the age, Dr. Gregory's Father's Legacy to his Daughters (first published 1774). The version which appears here has been slightly abridged, and the language is occasionally simplified from the original. A. K. Elwood's Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England notes that Talbot's '"Fairy Tale," or rather her "Allegory upon Education," is one of the most successful of the kind, calculated alike to interest children and to please those of mature age.'

'Prince Lupin' begins with a king deliberating over which of his three sons should be his heir. He sets three tests to find which of them is most worthy of his favour. He orders them to leave home and find, first, the most charming dog, then a length of wool which can pass through a needle, and last, the most beautiful woman ever seen. The youngest son ends up in a palace of invisible cats and lives luxuriously each year he is there. At the end of each of the first two years the queen of the cats, a cat herself, gives the prince the dog and then the wool which will win him the contest. At the end of the third year she instructs the prince to cut off her tail and head, and when he willingly complies, the cat herself is revealed to be a beautiful woman. What is missing from this abridged version is the white cat's description of her own enchantment by fairies, and D'Aulnoy's moral verse. The full tale can be read in an early collection of fairy tales published by Benjamin Tabart from p.112 of 0043.

'The Yellow Dwarf' is remarkable for its decidedly unhappy ending, although, as Marina Warner points out, this did nothing to hamper its popularity in the early nineteenth century. However, a happy ending was often appended for stage productions and later nineteenth-century versions (Warner 1995: 252-253). The tale is slightly abbreviated from the original in this version. The princess All-Fair is proud and obstinate and will not agree to marry any of her many suitors. Her mother seeks advice from the Desert Fairy, but she mislays the cake which will placate the lions who block her path. Only a Yellow Dwarf can save her, but in return he forces her to agree to the marriage of himself and All-Fair. In consequence of her promise, the Queen is melancholy on her return to the palace. The Princess herself decides to find out the cause of this sudden change from the Desert Fairy, but she too falls asleep under the Yellow Dwarf's orange tree and loses her cake. When she agrees to marry the dwarf in return for his protection from the lions, she is magically transported back home. Although she now has a ring her finger, made from a single red hair and impossible to remove, she tries to escape from her impending marriage by accepting the proposals of the brave, rich and powerful King of the Golden Mines. Surely the Yellow Dwarf will not think of trying to overcome him? But the dwarf, accompanied by the Desert Fairy, interrupts the splendid marriage ceremony, and he and the King of the Golden Mines fight. The Yellow Dwarf escapes with the Princess, and the Fairy, having fallen in love with the King, abducts and imprisons him. The reader follows his story now, as he wins the freedom to walk along the sea-shore by feigning love for the Fairy, and encounters a mermaid who helps him to escape. He finds his way to the Princess, but drops the magical sword the mermaid has given him. The Yellow Dwarf snatches up the sword and kills the King. Having reproached the Dwarf, the Princess dies 'without a sigh'. As had happened to Ovid's Philemon and Baucis, the two lovers are transformed into trees. For a brief discussion of 'The Yellow Dwarf' see also Ruth B. Bottigheimer, 'Fairy Tales and Folk-tales', pp.152-65 in The International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children's Literature.

'The Story of Little George' is not so much a traditional fairy tale as an instructive allegory. These attempts to fuse fairy tales with moral allegories had their own established tradition by the early nineteenth century. An old crone approaches some boys, most of whom either run away or call her a witch. Only Henry and his friend Little George remain, and they accompany the woman, really a fairy called 'Instruction'. She takes them to her ancient castle and they are treated well, given delicacies by the fairy's minions, 'Innocence', 'Health', 'Mirth' and 'Good-Humour'. A statue called 'Truth', made of a diamond, comes to life and warns Little George not to lie. She presents him with a Catechism bound in silver, a pocket Bible and a mirror. '"These books", said she, "will teach you how to be good, great and happy."' (p.25) The mirror will always shew him his true self - as a monster if he has become false (see Pickering 1993: 182-194 for a discussion of the mirror as emblem in children's literature). Other statues come to life. 'Modesty' warns George about the puddle 'Disgrace' and the enchantress 'Flattery', against whose snares she gives him a nosegay. It will also protect him against 'Pride' who will endeavour to push George into the puddle of 'Disgrace' or puff him up so that he will not be able to pass through the narrow ways which lead to 'True Honour'. After several more encounters with these pedagogical statues, George is taken through a variety of rooms in which he learns to use the 'Staff of Application' and so on. He ends up in two rooms, one of which is the 'Gallery of Fiction', and the other the 'Apartment of History'. They constitute a school. George is set to learn here, but he longs for the field outside. 'Instruction' appears and lets him out - for the holidays, say shouting children around him - but he is given a key to return. It will only work if it does not grow rusty. Since he has forgotten his 'Spur' (to prick him to assiduity) and his 'Staff of Application' he forgets the key and cannot get back into the castle when the time comes for the key has grown rusty. He eventually gains admission with the help of 'Truth' and 'Amendment', who apparently beat him back into a better sense of his duty (p.30). George and Henry carry on from room to room, each a little higher than the last, placing everything worthy of attention in their 'Cabinet of Memory'. At last they get to the 'Temple of Honour' at the top. It has fantastic views and can be seen from anywhere. The only way in is via the Fairy 'Instruction'. They reside there for the rest of their days.

The advertisement on the inside back cover list 13 'Juvenile Books' by Oliver and Boyd, mostly fairy stories. Oliver and Boyd were publishing in Edinburgh from at least 1808, and continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Elwood, A. K., Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England, 2 vols., London, 1843

Warner, Marina, From the Beast to the Blonde. On Fairy Tales and their Tellers, 1994, rpt. London: Vintage, 1995

Hunt, Peter (ed.), The International Companion Encyclopaedia of Children's Literature, London and New York: Routledge, 1996

Pickering, Samuel F., Jnr.Moral Instruction and Fiction for Children, 1749-1820, University of Georgia Press, Athens, 1993