Title: The Brown Fairy Book
Author: Andrew Lang (ed & trans), Omar Rayyan (illus), Adam Phillips (intro)
Publisher: The Folio Society, 2010
Condition: Hardcover, new. With matching slipcase. 13 full-page colour illustrations and additional black & white embellishments. 304 pages. Book size: 10″ x 71/2″. Heavy!
The Brown Fairy Book features stories from every continent, including ‘The Bunyip’, a story from the Australian bush, and the Native American tale of the ‘Ball-Carrier and the Bad One’. There is magic and enchantment from Africa in ‘The Sacred Milk of Koumongoé’ and from India in the ‘Story of the King who would be Stronger than Fate’. These far-flung tales all obey the time-honoured rules of fairyland: in the Persian story ‘What the Rose did to the Cypress’, a prince must guess a riddle to win his princess’s hand in marriage, and in the Scandinavian tale ‘The Fox and the Lapp’, a wily fox hitches a ride on a merchant’s sledge and plays tricks on everyone he meets.
A feature of The Folio Society editions of Lang’s fairy books are their superb illustrations, harking back to Arthur Rackham and the golden age of children’s illustration. The watercolours and pen and ink drawings created by Omar Rayyan are especially charming. He is an American artist, but the gorgeous colouring in his art is clearly influenced by exquisite Persian miniature painting. There is also a sly sense of humour in many of his illustrations, which makes the perfect accompaniment to such stories as ‘The Enchanted Head’ or ‘Father Grumbler’.