I’m taking some flak in the comments to yesterday’s book recommendation request post, so let me illustrate what I meant with an example. Lots of people recommended the Andrew Lang Fairy books, which are freely available online. I looked at the first story in the first book, which is plenty entertaining, but also has this bit that stopped me short:
Hardly had [an evil sorceror] reached his own house when, taking the ring, he said, “Bronze ring, obey thy master. I desire that the golden ship shall turn to black wood, and the crew to hideous negroes; that St. Nicholas shall leave the helm and that the only cargo shall be black cats.”
This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to avoid– casual and utterly pointless racism. And, yeah, yeah, product of their time, blah, blah, blah. I’m not explaining that one to my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
So, how is this different than the editing of Twain that I was basically against last month? The difference is that Huckleberry Finn is telling a story about a specific time and place, and the racist language used by the characters is a significant part of that time and place. Replacing it with more neutral language would decouple it from history, and to some degree even goes against the point of the book.
Fairy tales, though, by definition, take place in no particular time or country. In which case, there’s really no purpose to gratuitous racial slurs like the above, other than to reveal something about the time and place in which the story was written down. Dropping the “hideous negroes” bit wouldn’t change anything remotely important to the story, and it would avoid some extreme awkwardness that I really don’t need.
So, that’s what I’m looking for, or more specifically, looking to avoid. I don’t need a completely Disneyfied version of the stories, but I do want something that takes out the utterly pointless racism/ sexism/ etc. of a lot of the older stories.
I’ll happily point SteelyKid to the Lang books at a time when she’s more able to deal with them. At age two-and-a-half, though, no way.