Originally posted on 09 Mar 2023

1 minute read

The author is a highly accomplished and well respected professor of comparative literature and cultural studies. He’s done a ton of work with fairy tales and folk tales. Therefore, this isn’t simply a book of stories about sorcerers, their apprentices, and how things inevitably go awry. It’s also a study of these tales across history. Zipes starts the book with a single chapter, an 89 page introduction, detailing his findings.

I didn’t read that chapter.

It’s undoubtedly Very Interesting and full of valuable cultural and sociological insights, but I wasn’t in the mood for it. I was there for the stories, so I skipped the 89 pages of academia to get to the mind candy.

There’s basically only two types of these stories: the one you’re probably already thinking of, where the apprentice (who probably looks a lot like Mickey Mouse in your mind) screws up and nearly drowns because he can’t stop the spell he started, and the one where the apprentice escapes the evil sorcerer then uses magic to bilk money from unsuspecting people before the sorceror comes after him for some sort of revenge.

It turns out the first type—the one immortalised in Fantasia—goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. The other type is also very old. Both types have traveled the world, taking on characteristics of the native cultures. Zipes collects these different versions of the tales, so the reader is able to see how each changes to fit its environment.

If you like this sort of comparative literature thing, or folk tales, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. At some point, when my brain is up for it, I intend to go back and read those first 89 pages to get even more out of this book than I already have.