This antique tome, full od dusty, crumbling pages, is a fairy tale book. It's a collection of Polish folk stories as gathered and written by some of the most famous Polish authors. It was my mother's childhood book and was then passed on to me. I'd been read from it since I was a small kid and have been coming back to it regularly through my whole life.
A lot of the fairy tales found on the pages of this book are regional adaptations of pan-European folk tales, similar to those you know as Grimm Brothers' tales --collected and written down by the 19th century folklorists after being in circulation among folk for hundreds of years. They all stem from common beliefs and realities and are spiced up with local flavours, and that's why they work for every reader. It's easy to immerse yourself in them because they talk about things everybody can relate to --love, justice, cunning etc. -- but they also work because you're basically reading about your own land and people and your imagination is being moved even stronger by those associations.
When I say I'm attracted to things mysterious and fantastic, I believe this attraction stems from this very book. I filled myself with them up to the brim and the stories within it formed my perception of the world, taught me to seek magic in everyday life and left me with strong morals. Among the stories of princes and princesses, kings and queens, wisemen and tricksters, peasants and rogues that still move my imagination, there is one special story that has long been a favorite of mine. It tells about a very kind man who, in thanks for his good deeds was invited to visit to the otherworld. He saw how people live in Hell and in Heaven (the imagery is stunning, very Hieronymus Bosch-esque) and he even met God Himself. He then came back home, only to find out that during his short trip to the otherworld, hundreds of years have passed on Earth and there is no sign of his family and household whatsoever. He himself crumbled to dust shortly after. It is the most peculiar story I've ever read and I can't really put a finger on the emotions it provokes in me. I love the enigma in this story, the interpretative freedom it allows and the way I'm shocked each and every time I read it. And perhaps I don't really need to understand what is happening. Maybe what the real value of fairy tales is, is that they let us feel something and experience the reality of our emotions in this way.
Do you read fairy tales as an adult? Do you have a favorite? What do those stories provoke in you?
Jeans: thrifted, C&A
Belt: thrifted, vintage