In the introduction to The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old, well-known children's literature academic Maria Tatar quotes philosopher Ernst Bloch on fairy tales:
"'Once upon a time' refers not just to the past but points forward to a 'more colorful or easier elsewhere,' the place where courage and cunning can help you change your station in life..."
The Fairies Return is a collection of modern, that is 1930s-era, takes on classic fairy tales collected by Brit Peter Davies, who himself was no stranger to fairy tales. The adopted son of J. M. Barrie, Davies is believed to be the inspiration for Peter Pan. Davies, founder of the publishing house, Peter Davies Ltd., may have grown tired of his association with "the boy who never grew up," as he is reported as referring to Peter Pan as "that terrible masterpiece," but it is clear from this volume that he was very interested in collecting and sharing tales of enchantment.
[Right: Peter Llewelyn Davies]
Tatar, apart from analyzing the entries in the collection, includes a comprehensive biography of Davies. There is also a nice section at the back of the book with author biographies. Eight women and seven men are the authors of these updated versions of familiar tales. Only E. Arnot Robertson's "Dick Whittington" could not be included in this edition due to copyright reasons. The fourteen tales include:
"Jack the Giant Killer," by A. E. Coppard: Worse than any Blitz, giants Demos, Kudos, and Osmos invade London, eating its inhabitants and only leaving their discarded clothing to tell the gruesome tale. A young Cornish fisherman named Jack with an eye for the Boss's daughter and a knowledge of prawns and fishing with bait has a plan to save the city.
"Godfather Death," By Clemence Dane (Winifred Ashton): Two generations of Devon doctors, a father and son, form a curious relationship with the Grim Reaper in this powerful tale.