Sur La Lune Fairy Tales offers 47 fully annotated tales, some familiar, some not. “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and others are taken directly from the great 18th and 19th century collections, such as Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy Book. Most of us know these stories only through their animated, frequently entertaining, sometimes caricatured, versions. Students and teachers will find the originals surprisingly powerful in their presentation of sufferings and triumphs, successes and failures. Beauty and the Beast, for example, begins with Job-like disasters that ruin Beauty’s rich father forcing the family to face unaccustomed destitution.
All that he had left was a little house in a desolate place at least ahundred leagues from the town in which he had lived, and to this he was forced to retreat with his children, who were in despair at the idea of leading such a different life. Indeed, the daughters at first hoped that their friends, who had been so numerous while they were rich, would insist on their staying in their houses now they no longer possessed one. But they soon found that they were left alone, and that their former friends even attributed their misfortunes to their own extravagance, and showed no intention of offering them any help. So nothing was left for them but to take their departure to the cottage, which stood in the midst of a dark forest, and seemed to be the most dismal place upon the face of the earth.
The depth and excellent organization of the website show the training in English and information science of its author, Heidi Anne Heiner. Hyperlinked annotations define unfamiliar words, explain social significances, and offer thoughtful reflections. Each story has pages dedicated to excellent illustrations available online, secondary writings, and similar tales found in other cultures. Thousands more tales are available through links to electronic collections.
Sur La Lune is a key to open a great treasury, our great tradition of fairy tales. Lewis, Chesterton and Tolkien were deeply affected by fairy tales (and myths) throughout their lives. Well-told fairy tales open the imagination to enchantment, excitement, danger, and wisdom. As Tolkien put it, both writer and reader share in:
. . .the primal desire at the heart of Faerie: the realization independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder.
Fairy tales present good and evil with a particular clarity that is difficult to achieve in other forms of literature, helping to form a deep loyalty to moral truths. They awaken a desire for beauty beyond the possibility of ordinary experience. As Chesterton points out in his intellectual autobiography,Orthodoxy, they led him to realize how much was to be wondered at in the waking world around him. Albert Einstein agreed:
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking." [Quoted from Sur La Lune]
Lewis and Tolkien both believed that fairy tales offer a foretaste of the eternal joy we hope for through God’s own real Fairy Tale, The Incarnation. As Tolkien put it:
"The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth….In the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world." [Essay on Faerie Stories]
Understanding this was an important step in Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.
Through Sur La Lune, the world of fairy tales is opened to teachers, students, and the entire academic community. They make for excellent faculty discussions as well as excitement for students.