Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairytale Studies. – book review
Edited by Donald Haase. Vols 11 (1997)-15 (2001). Detroit: Wayne State University Press. $26.00 (per volume). ISSN 1521-4281
It may be somewhat unusual to review a number of volumes of a journal in the middle of a run, but in the case of Marvels and Tales the decision to do so is not as arbitrary as it may seem, for the eleventh volume was in a sense a new beginning as well as a continuation of the previous ten volumes. Readers of Folklore familiar with the journal will recall that it was founded in 1987 by Jacques Barchilon under the dual title Merveilles and contes/Marvels and Tales, with the intention of establishing a multi-disciplinary forum for fairytale studies. After the publication of the first ten volumes, the founding editor handed over the reins to Donald Haase of Wayne State University, while at the same time the journal acquired a revised title and format and a new publisher in the Wayne State University Press. Cristina Bacchilega of the University of Hawai’i-Manoa became its reviews editor.
It would be unwise to attempt to review in detail all nine issues of the journal in hand (the 1997 volume was a double issue). What follows is therefore a combination of a critical survey of the ideological scope of Marvels and Tales, an account of the practical conversions of its editorial intentions, a severely curtailed sampling of some of the individual articles and texts that have been given a home in the journal in the past five years, and an assessment of the journal as a scholarly vehicle for folk-narrative research. It is never easy to isolate criteria that measure fairly and convincingly an elusive phenomenon such as “ideological scope” when the relationship between editorial selectivity and the authorial slants of contributions is not immediately obvious. Nevertheless, it is probably an acceptable assumption that a clearly stated editorial policy attracts primarily submissions that are seen by the contributors as being compatible with that policy. In the case of Marvels and Tales, the statement that the journal is committed “to promoting advances in fairytale studies” and therefore “encourages research that introduces and explores new or neglected subject areas, as well as work that reconsiders the fairytale canon in light of new critical approaches and theories” appears to have particularly attracted scholars’ interest.
Within the necessary limitations imposed by a quinquennium of publishing opportunity, it is not possible to reflect on the expectations as to the kind of width envisaged by the editor in 1997. It cannot, however, be considered accidental that, of the forty-one articles printed between 1997 and 2001, twenty have appeared in the two special issues devoted to Angela Carter (1998) and “Fairy-Tale Liberation” (2000), respectively–the latter celebrating three decades of feminist fairytale studies. This observation is not to be misinterpreted as negative criticism, but is to be seen merely as a description of an undeniable trend in the five volumes under review. Admittedly, this emphasis is partially balanced by a variety of other topics and approaches, such as “Complex Entities in the Universe of Fairytales” (Francisco Vaz de Salva), “The Influence of Queen Victoria on England’s Literary Fairytale” (Eric Brown), “The Challenges of Translating Perrault’s Contes into English” (Claire-Lise Malarte-Filelman), “The Composition of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk'” (Christine Goldberg), or “Connections that Open Up: Cooordination and Causality in Folktales” (Joyce Goldenstern), although an admixture of gender studies is never far away.
Considering the genesis of the journal, it is not surprising that much of the material analysed and (re-)interpreted in the articles is to be found on the Continent and in the domain of the literary fairytale. In this respect, Marvels and Tales can be understood as a sophisticated bridging device between that continental substance and its English-speaking audience, a comment that opens the door for a few words on the “practical conversion” of the editorial intentions, particularly since a typical issue of the journal contains seldom more than two or three traditional articles while the larger amount of space is devoted to sections on “Scholarship in Translation,” “Texts and Translations,” “Reviews,” “Critical Exchanges” and “Professional Notices.” In particular, the first two have caught this reviewer’s eye since they to some extent meet a desideratum to which he has drawn attention for a number of years because of the relative inaccessibility of scholarly publications in other languages to English-speaking readerships. Examples of the first category include Joseph Gaughan’s translation from the French of Yvonne Verdier’s “Little Riding Hood in Oral Tradition” (11 ), and Deborah Lokai Bischof’s translation from the German of Lothar Bluhm’s “A New Debate about ‘Old Marie’? Critical Observations on the Attempt to Remythologize Grimms’ Fairytales from a Socio-Historical Perspective” (14 ). The second group comprises, among others, translations from the German of Bettina Brentano-von Arnim’s “tale of the Lucky Purse (11 ), Gisela von Arnim’s The Rose Cloud” (11 ), Theodor Storm s “The Rain Maiden” (11 ), all three enriching the understanding of the three articles to which they refer, respectively, in the same volume; also translations from the Italian of Giambattista Basile’s “The Cockroach, the Mouse, and the Cricket” (12 ) and “The Cinderella Cat” (13 ), translations from the Spanish of Antonio de Trueba’s “The Adventures of a Tailor” (12 ) and Juan Valera’s “The Green Bird” (13 ), as well as a translation of a folktale collected in the Solomon Islands, “The Bride, the Spirit, and the Warrior” (13 ). Selected original English texts include excerpts from Robert Coover’s “Entering Ghost Town” (12 ), Marina Warner’s “Ballerina: The Belled Girl Sends a Tape to an Impresario” (12 ), Sheena Lambert’s “Kublai Khan and the Sun Bird” (15 ), and J. R. Blanche’s “The Yellow Dwarf and the King of the Gold Mines” (15 ). These titles are listed here in some detail because they form a truly innovative feature of Marvels and Tales, fulfilling an especially satisfying function when they are linked to essays or themes in the article section, thus diminishing the sometimes uncomfortable distance between the scholar/interpreter/theorist and the creative artist/teller/performer.
When one takes into consideration an extensive and well-maintained bibliographical section, Marvels and Tales can be said to have developed an excellent traffic pattern in the conveyance of its intellectual wares to its reading consumers, whether professionals or enthusiasts. In its emphasis on modernity (or even post-modernity), it appeals to a public that likes to be informed about what is happening at the cutting edge of contemporary fairytale research, especially in its literary environment and shaping. In this specialised role, it has carved out a niche for itself within the growing market devoted to folk-cultural, especially folk-narrative, matters. Rather than competing with a journal like Fabula, it happily complements it like an understanding travelling companion on a road to a shared destination.
W. F. H. Nicolaisen, University of Aberdeen, UK
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