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Small-toothed Dog

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  My reading of the sixth story from Ruth Manning-Sander's children's anthology "A Book of Magic Animals" (1974), entitled 'The Small-toothed Dog'. This is basically a British version of Beauty and the Beast with a canine twist. Stories of this trope have come in for some stick in recent years as normalising abusive relationships, giving young girls the fancy that if only endure plenty of beastly behaviour eventually their future husbands will turn int handsome princes. Whilst there is undoubtedly a tendency for people to believing that infinite patience will turn vindictive curmudgeons into romantic figures (an ideal that cuts across gender lines), it seems unfair to blame fairy stories for pushing such an agenda. Colette Dowling blew that idea up out of all proportion and made a mint with her "Cinderella Complex". A Jungian reading would see Beauty and the Beast not as two separate people but as differing aspects of the same person. Whereupon it be

Tralala

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  My reading of the fifth story from Ruth Manning-Sanders children's anthology "A Book of Magic Animals" (1974) - a curious Russian tale called "Eh, Eh, Tralala!" about a magical cat, a gormless chicken, and a cunning fox. I think I deserve some sort of award for managing to say Little Cock so many times without sniggering. If anyone is wondering what Dracula is doing in a Russian story, I can only assume that he had stopped off for a rest after a long flight.

Lilla Rosa

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 The fourth story from Ruth Manning-Sanders children's anthology "A Book of Magic Animals" (1974) is 'Lilla Rosa', a Swedish tale about a princess with the inevitable wicked stepmother who falls victim to various magical shenanigans. Not sure if the linden tree in this story is the original Singing-Ringing Tree of awful, badly dubbed 1970s children's TV fame. It's a frothy piece and I don't want to start reading too much symbolism into it, but the shapeshifting struggle near the end (a common theme in many legends, folk-songs and the like) ca be understood as reflective of the ways people change in response to grief and being caught up in treacherous family dynamics - and how difficult it is for those who love them to hold on to the essence of who that person is amidst the dark times when they seem to have become something alien and frightening.

Mainu the Frog

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  My reading of 'Mainu the Frog', the third story in Ruth Manning-Sanders' anthology "A Book of Magic Animals" (1974). This is an African tale - I'm not sure which country because the book does not specify - about a talking frog that acts as go-between to arrange the marriage of a sky maiden to a mortal man. I suspect that magic frogs cannot be any more ineffective than the current fad for dating apps.

Little Humpbacked Horse

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 The second story from Ruth Manning-Sanders (1974) anthology "A Book of Magic Animals". This one is a Russian tale (although the names of the main characters do seem especially Russian) in which the youngest of three brothers encounters magical horses, firebirds, a rotten Tsar, talking whales, and magical beings of strange sorts.

North-west Wind

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  My reading of the first story (The North-west Wind) from Ruth Manning-Sanders anthology "A Book of Magic Animals" (1974). The book was a gift from a friend, Kathryn, who acquired it from the book stall run by another friend, Adam, at Lavenham antique centre This story tells of a talking monkey, an irate French farmer with an outrageous accent, and the House of the Winds. The latter element of the story reminds me a little of Irish myth which accounts for sixteen winds, each with their own colour. Copyright issues permitting, I will endeavour to read more of the stories over the course of the summer holiday - ideally all of them.

The Reluctant Dragon

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 To mark Midsummer I decided to record a reading of Kenneth Grahame's children's story "The Reluctant Dragon". the first few attempts succumbed to technical problems (or possibly the ghost of the author trying to save his tale from being subjected to such ham butchery), but on the third attempt the recording worked.  Grahame was the author of one of my favourite books - Wind in the Willows - and this gentle tale sits within that same world with its love of the British countryside. The story doesn't actually mention midsummer, but it does have a feel about it that goes well with this season of the year. The villagers obsessed with imaginary grievances which they dream up to satiate their desire for a punch-up strikes me as strangely prophetic of the modern world of social media. The wonderful actor Anton Lesser has recorded a far superior version of this story which is well worth tracking down, should you get the chance.