September 26, 2010

My New Favorite Fairy Tale

The Day Boy and the Night Girl was written by George MacDonald in 1879. It’s a haunting and beautiful tale about an evil witch who steals a baby boy, keeping him from darkness, and a baby girl, keeping her in a tomb-like room away from all light. Circumstances and curiosity eventually bring them into each other’s world. Not only is it a sincere fairy tale with romance, tragedy and magic, but also I fell in love with the words and the way it was written. Okay, that’s all I’m sharing because if you haven’t read this story and you’re a fairy tale fan, you gotta read it!

In the title I said that this was my NEW favorite. What was my original favorite? Cinderella. But truthfully, I can’t really compare the two. I can’t tell you the last time I actually sat down and read a classic version of Cinderella. I just know it by heart, feel like I’ve known the story forever. So let’s just say, I love this new-found fairy tale in a different way.

If you’ve read this one before or do get a chance to read it, I’m curious to know what you think.

Amazon has the short story in print (52 page)

And there’s the Kindle edition: The Complete Fairy Tales by MacDonald, which includes The Day Boy and the Night Girl.

George MacDonald (1824-1905) was born in Scotland. He moved to London, where he finished his theological seminary in 1851. He had 11 children. With fifty-one volumes, he was a prominent writer of the Victorian period. His fairy tales often challenged the strict gender roles found in traditional Victorian puritan code (Zipes.)


Zipes, Jack. Victorian Fairy Tales: The Revolt of the Fairies and Elves. NewYork and London: methuem, Inc. 1987, print.


Gruffling said...

Well, it wasn't the way I'd planned my evening but thank you for a more entertaining diversion than the television could manage.

I can see what you mean about this story, which is clearly a story without obvious parallels in other fairy tales.

I have been reading tales from the Arabian Nights to my little boys over the last week or so and it is amazing how similar some of them are to stories that we know from Grimm and other collections of folk tales - especially the Golden Anklet which is clearly the same story as Cinderella. Technically the Arabian Nights should be considered the earlier source, but apparently there is no "definitive" version of the Arabian Nights and it has accumulated tales from other lands over its long existence, so nothing is as straightforward as it seems.

I also recently noticed that the story of Weland the smith from Germanic/Norse legend has striking similarities to the story of Daedalus and Icarus, which again begs the question of at what point a Greek legend came to be retold as a central myth in Scandinavia.

Getting back to the Day boy and the night girl, I found it enthralling and mystifying. The one disappointment was Watho. She clearly had some plan for her two stolen children and their strange upbringing, but we never learn what it was to be. Perhaps her illness - the wolf inside her - made her forget any higher (perhaps scientific?) aims and just leaves her with an unwanted scheme that she no longer has the time or energy for and she becomes cruel and spiteful.

My favourite part was the way that Nycteris learned about the night after her years underground and grew to love what she thought must be the day spoken of in her stories, with the moon standing in for the sun.

I have heard of George MacDonald for many years but that is actually the first one of his stories that I have ever read. I found it refreshingly modern for a tale over a century old. I would happily read more!

Dorlana said...

Hi Gruffling,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you enjoyed the fairy tale. This was my first MacDonald story, too. I'll be reading more!
It is interesting when you compare fairy/folk tales from around the world and from different eras and see just how similar a lot of them are.
I think one of the reasons I liked this one so much was because MacDonald didn't use the "normal" fairy tale style - he used his own. I was kind of surprised by Wilde's fairy tales. I guess I was expecting his tone to be like Dorian Greyish. I don't know...
Arabian Nights: I bet my little boy would enjoy those tales. I'm going to look into that. I read the Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great (Knights' Tales Series)and he really liked it.