The magic of fairy tales

Storytelling - February 2005


Once upon a time a beautiful princess …. And they lived happily ever after. Add a prince, a few fairies and a dragon or witch and the outcome is an enchanting fairytale. If your children have tired of this classic formula, here are my recommendations for recordings that add a dash of spice to the basic fairy tale recipe.

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN–THE MAN AND HIS TALES, adapted and told by Randel McGee, 1999, $10 for audiocassette, $15 for CD, 47 minutes; ages 7-10.

 It isn’t hard to step into the world of Hans Christian Andersen with McGee as your guide. His flawless Danish accent, which he maintains throughout this delightful recording, makes his transformation from just another storyteller into the sensitive author/storyteller that lived many years ago very believable. In this persona, McGee expertly weaves together the highlights of Andersen’s life with his imaginative stories.

Andersen’s statement, “My friends marvel that I can take almost anything and give it a story to tell,” is proven in the four intriguing stories on this tape, including “Silly Hans” and “It’s Perfectly True.” In keeping with Andersen’s lively style, McGee retells these tales by incorporating a variety of voices, sound effects and humorous asides into these gentle stories. Listeners of all ages are sure to smile at McGee’s comical character voices (He’s adept at easily switching from Andersen’s accent to a character voice) and his subtle sense of humor (“…ladies in waiting. I don’t know what they are waiting for.”)

Youngsters will easily get caught up in McGee’s enthusiastic telling style. His pacing and inflection help to heighten action and breathe emotion into these enjoyable tales. This tape is a wonderful introduction to Andersen’s stories and is bound to generate a visit to the library to search for more.

“Hans Christian Andersen–The Man and His Tales” can be purchased by e-mailing [email protected] with your request for a CD or audiocassette or by mailing a request with a check or money order made out to McGee Productions to McGee Productions, P.O. Box 1723, Hanford, CA 93232.

THE FABRICS OF FAIRYTALE: STORIES SPUN FROM FAR AND WIDE, retold and narrated by Tanya Robyn Batt, folk music by Jenny Crook and Henry Sears, The Barefoot Child, 2000, $19.99 for two enhanced CDs and a six-page illustrated leaflet, which includes summaries of the stories, 105 minutes; ages 9 and up.

The central theme for this unique collection of fairy tales from around the world, including Armenia, Africa and China, is fabric. In each story the plot is based on a special piece of cloth that is indigenous to that culture. In “The Three Fayes” from Sweden, a girl is helped by three magical old women to spin yarn out of flax. Listeners will be drawn into these entertaining tales that include exciting adventures, a good dose of magic and a “happily ever after” ending.

Batt’s sweet, melodic voice makes this recording enjoyable to listen to. Her excellent use of pacing and inflection, especially in the action sequences, infuses life into these intriguing stories.  After listening to these riveting, multi-cultural fairytales, older listeners will realize that fairy tales aren’t just for younger children.

“The Fabrics of Fairytale: Stories Spun From Far and Wide” can be purchased in major bookstores, on line at or by calling (866) 417-2369.

THE WISE LITTLE GIRL: TALES OF THE FEMININE, performance and musical accompaniment by Odds Bodkin, River Tree Productions, 1992, $9.95 for audiocassette, 46 minutes; ages 8-10.

The one fairytale and two folktales on this recording highlight clever women. Unlike many fairytales that feature beautiful women looking for a prince to take care of them, these stories show that females are anything but helpless. Youngsters’ problem solving skills will be tested when a tsar poses a series of riddles to a young girl in the Russian folktale, “The Wise Little Girl.” They will be amazed at how she outwits this powerful man.

Bodkin’s very energetic and dramatic storytelling is sure to grab and keep your child’s attention. When he tells the Grimm’s fairytale, “The Three Spinning Fairies,” listeners will chuckle when they hear his highly exaggerated character voices. Bodkin masterfully makes a tale three dimensional when he uses a multitude of character voices, impeccable pacing and varies his volume and tone to convey emotion. His use of the 12-string guitar, Tom Tom and Celtic harp aids in pacing, adds to authenticity, such as when he uses a Tom Tom in the Native American myth, “The Buffalo’s Wife,” and heightens action.

“The Wise Little Girl: Tales of the Feminine” can be purchased online at or by calling (800) 554-1333.    

Naomi Leithold is an award-winning storyteller and early childhood educator. She lives in Skokie and has two boys, ages 13 and 16. Her Web site,, features story starters and other resources for young storytellers.


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