Reprinting early Australian fairy tales.

Should we reprint them? Or does their appeal remain fixed in the era they were written? Hart (1950) made the point that, ‘books flourish when they answer a need and die when they do not’ (285) and it is worth considering for example the fairytales of Tarella Quin whose fairy tale books were reprinted numerous times. Quin (aka Quin Daskein), published her first fairy tale, Gum Tree Brownie in 1907[1] with enlargements and variations appearing with regularity in 1918, 1925, 1934 and 1983. Her publisher was still publishing one hundred years after her first book which allowed the opportunity for re-publishing it.  It was believed that public taste indicated this book could become popular again.

However, when Gum Tree Brownie was republished as The Other Side of Nowhere: Fairy Stories of the Never Never (1983) two stories that did not suit the current socio-cultural environment were omitted. Cruelty and death are not seen as suitable topics for children’s books today - or at least not in the way they were presented in this book. In the first story omitted, Gum Tree Brownie, a brownie is captured and taken hostage in a cruel and capricious manner. The distress of the brownie is discernable and blatant. In the other tale, Exit to Faerieland, the ‘supposed’ author of the fairy tales in the book is met by all his creations and as he is old (and it is assumed about to die) is taken with them back to fairy land. A tale about the death of a child or person was common in many children’s books written at this time, and comforting for child readers that another child or friend who has died in childhood could be thought of living on in fairyland.


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