The USA - Fairy tales and folk tales - Forms and genres - children’s literature

Children’s literature

Part II. Forms and genres


19. Fairy tales and folk tales


Ruth B. Bottigheimer




America’s English-language children’s books were almost exclusively of English parentage until about 1850, yet fairy books remained conspicuously absent from children’s reading, because American intellectuals, and especially the teachers among them, rejected their magic as contradictory to the enlightened rationalism that underlay and guided American political thought. Consequently, they equated tales about fairies and fairy tales with Old World superstition, and held their kings and queens to be antithetical to the concepts of equality on which the new country had been founded. Hence, Perrault’s fairy tales remained unavailable in any American printing until Peter Edes’ Haverhill edition of 1794, two full generations after their introduction into England.