Books of stories to read aloud
July 29, 2013 7:12 PM   Subscribe

We're looking for books of fairy tales well-suited to bedtime reading.

Mrs. B.F.G. and I picked up a copy of Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales, and got into the habit of one of us reading one of the stories to the other before bed. Unfortunately, we've now finished all of them, and are looking for a similar book to read from.

Things we liked about it were:

- The stories were reasonably short; they could be read aloud in 5-20 minutes, just the right length for pre-bedtime relaxation.
- They were told as stories, rather than as academic documentation.
- There was a nice mix of different types of story.

We've looked at "Best-Loved Folktales of the World" by Joanna Cole, but the stories tended towards the long side. We also looked at The Arabian Nights, but the language tends toward the formal; it felt like we were reading translations of very old poetry (which, to be fair, we were).

Any suggestions?
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Have you checked out the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library? It has volumes for a number of countries. Here is the Russian edition, as an example.

Also, there are a number of Arabian Nights translations, so if the idea appeals to you but you didn't like the language of the one you tried, it might be worth checking out another translation. I read the Mardrus and Mathers translation and it flowed well.

Ovid's Metamorphoses would be great for this. When I was in school we used Horace Gregory's translation, but like the Arabian Nights, there are lots of other versions to try.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:45 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

My SO says that Arabian Nights is quite pornographic, if you're reading the Richard Burton one. They were never intended for children.

The Grimm tales also weren't strictly intended for children but are a little more all ages. They range in length and I believe there are shorter ones, if your kids are okay with their sometimes grim quality (pun intended - as is the warning). I found a nice translation of all the tales in cheap paperback form a few years ago; some of the lesser known ones are very interesting.
posted by jb at 7:47 PM on July 29, 2013

Best answer: Have you looked at Andrew Lang's Colored Fairy Books? They're ideal for this sort of thing. The Crimson Fairy Book is my personal favorite, mostly due to "The Prince Who Would Seek Immortality", but they're all excellent sources of short, readable tales, and while they're mostly sourced from European folklore, they do cover quite a range.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 8:09 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you already know you like Calvino, consider giving Invisible Cities a try. Not folktales or fairy tales but short and fascinating and lovely.
posted by janey47 at 8:47 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I loved the Afanasev collection of Russian fairy tales when I was a kid.

Wanda Gag translated two collections of Grimm.

posted by brujita at 10:13 PM on July 29, 2013

Even though many of the Kingfisher collections are marketed to a young audience, these books all have quite a diversity of subjects and authors. For example, Ghost Stories has works by Kafka, Dickens and Ray Bradbury. There are Kingfisher collections of stories from other cultures, such as Tales from Africa, and the collections like Funny Stories feature a range of traditional and modern writings, such as Roald Dahl's version of Snow White.
posted by gubenuj at 11:22 PM on July 29, 2013

Best answer: My bf and I used to read aloud from The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm edited by Maurice Sendak and Lore Segal.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 12:12 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aesop's Fables?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:19 AM on July 30, 2013

Peter Beagle's short stories! 'We Never Talk About My Brother' is a good collection. You can skip the longer ones if they're out of your designated range.

Similar to gubenuj's suggestion, you might take yourself to a library and ask for the children's anthologies. There are so many and they come out fairly regularly, so you should be able to flip through a couple and find something that meets your criteria. The bonus is that if you find something you like, you can look up the author and see what else of theirs you can find.
posted by theweasel at 7:13 AM on July 30, 2013

Frank Stockton wrote stories in the style of fairy tales. I think they would be fun to read aloud. His most famous is 'The Lady, or the Tiger?'. I really like 'The Bee-Man of Orn'. You can read them here.
posted by Quonab at 8:04 AM on July 30, 2013

I thought of something else you might like. Soul Food is a collection of stories and fables from a variety of spiritual and religious traditions and, iirc, they're all fairly short. And they do provide food for thought.
posted by janey47 at 6:28 PM on July 31, 2013

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