After Joseph Jacobs, one of the most popular writers of fairy tales for the English language, began collecting and publishing English folktales, he expanded to the rest of the continent, gathering familiar folk and fairy tales like “Cinder-Maid” and “Beauty and Beast,” as well as a number of less-known tales.

I acquired this gem in a library book sale in Madison, Wisconsin. Many of the tales are so familiar they are easy to place, whereas others are not recognizable until clear comparisons are drawn by the author. Most the stories are early-form folklore, without much story or character development, and occasionally without moral, and they often end quite abruptly.

Two aspects of the book really bring it to life. First, the illustrations by John D. Batten are phenomenal. Second, at the end of the book, the author includes a critical analysis by himself and other experts of each story, including how many forms of the folk tale were found at the time of the collection (a century ago), in which countries the tale was found, and where it is likely to have originated. I only realized upon reading the Notes that “The Earl of Cattenborough” is an earlier form of “Puss-in-Boots,” and that in some cases the cat is a female fox, or a young girl from the castle of Cattenburg, or even a jackal in Indian folklore.

Recommended for anyone interested in an analytical look at classic fairy tales!