The Wonder Clock
by Howard Pyle
The twenty-four fairy tales in this anthology are suitable to be read to children of any age. Howard Pyle, author of The Garden Behind the Moon
and several classic books about Robin Hood, King Arthur, and pirates, not only wrote but also illustrated this set of timeless, magical stories, arranged according to the hours of the day. The result is one of the most beautiful nursery-books ever created, and it can also be appreciated by any adult.
A word about each of the stories in this book, many of which will be familiar to readers of Langs Fairy Books and the works of Grimm, Perrault, Andersen, etc....
At 1:00 (a.m.) is the tale of Bearskin, a millers son who is prophesied to marry a kings daughter. Because the king wants the boy out of the way, he ends up set adrift in a basket, raised by a compassionate mother bear, and finally sent out into the world to make his fortune. The greater part of this tale is of how Bearskin makes the prophecy come true, relying in part on the gifts of his mother bear, and in part on the devotion he inspires in the princess.
The 2:00 story of The Water of Life tells how a kings right-hand servant did his masters bidding, in order to win for him the hand of a fair queen. But it is the servant, whose faithfulness gives him the strength of ten men, who proves worthy to marry the queen. The length to which the king tests his servants faithfulness could wring your heart.
At 3:00, laugh to the story of How One Turned his Trouble to Some Account. This silly tale tells of a soldier, come home from the wars, who is turned out of his rich brothers house because Trouble follows him everywhere he goes. The soldier finally learns to use his Trouble to his own advantage, and the rich brother gets his just reward.
4:00 is the deliciously nonsensical hour of How Three Went Out into the Wide Worldan animal fable featuring a goose, a cock, a sausage (!), and a Great Red Fox. At 5:00 The Clever Student and the Master of Black Arts face off in a magnificent duel of wizardry and wits. 6:00 brings us The Princess Golden-Hair and the Great Black Raven, which is a great deal like the classic story of Beauty and the Beast.
At 7:00 enjoy another animal fable with Cousin Greylegs, the Great Red Fox and Grandfather Mole, a comedy of double-crosses and come-uppances. 8:00 shows us how One Good Turn Deserves Another, as a young fishermans good deeds are rewarded. At 9:00 the tale of The White Bird proves an uncommon specimen of the common tale of three princes being sent out to see which will prove most worthy of the throne, as the youngest and wisest of the three prevails in fortune, throne, and love.
10:00 shows us How the Good Gifts were used by Twoa poor brother and a rich brother, who both use the gifts of Saint Nicholas and Saint Christopher, the one wisely, the other foolishly. At 11:00, How Boots befooled the King proves that It is not always the silliest one that sits kicking his feet in the ashes at home. And 12 noon brings us round to The Stepmother, which is easily recognized as a version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Now we come to 1:00 p.m., when a poor peasant named Master Jacob outwits three greedy rascals in the form of a Priest, a Provost, and a Master Mayor. At 2:00 Peterkin and the Little Grey Hare proves to be an unusual, but wildly funny, variant of Jack and the Beanstalk (only without beans). Even weirder is the story of Mother Hildegarde at 3:00, in which a princess learns a severe lesson in telling the truth.
Which is Best? is the question of the hour at 4:00, as two brothers carry on a running debate on whether greed or mercy is better. The moral is obvious! At 5:00 The Simpleton and his Little Black Hen are soon parted by the greed of the simpletons brothers and a wily inkeeper, but young Caspar shows that Wit and Luck are not always hatched in the same nest.
At 6:00 The Swan Maiden wins her freedom from a three-eyed witch with the aid of a princely sweetheart and a woman made of honey and barley meal. At 7:00 The Three Little Pigs and the Ogre will win you over, even without the hair of anybodys chinny-chin-chin. In this tale, three pigs foraging for acorns in the forest repeatedly outwit a hungry ogre and prove that seeing a bit of the outside world is worth the risk.
The 8:00 tale tells us of The Staff and the Fiddle, two magical objects that enable a fiddler to save a beautiful princess from an evil dwarf and to outwit two scoundrels. Wouldnt you like to have a walking stick that would fight for you whenever you said Rub-a-dub-dub? At 9:00 you learn How the Princesss Pride was broken, thanks to a young king disguised as a goose boy. Then at 10:00 find out How Two went into Partnershipnamely, Uncle Bear and the Great Red Fox, who learn respectively that When a rogue and another cracks a nut together, it is not often the rogue who breaks his teeth by trying to eat the hulls and that When one sets a trap for another, it is a toss of a copper whether or no it flies up and pinches his own fingers.
King Stork appears at 11:00, in the tale of how a drummer lad fresh from the wars wins the favor of the stork king, who then helps him win the hand of a princess who is also, sad to say, a wicked enchantress. And finally, 12:00 midnight comes around with The Best that Life has to give, which is partly the story of a blacksmith who gives up his only son to a dwarf, partly that of how a queen finds out that the greatest treasure in the world is a long and happy marriage.
In both pictures and words, Howard Pyle captured a whimsical way of telling fairy tales that, I hope and expect, will endure for ages. Dont miss out on it. If youre a parent who reads to your children, get this book. If youre a child of any age and you can read it, do so. If you love fairy tales, you will love this book.
Recommended Age: 8+
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