Melisande (Fairy Tale Fridays)

I realize that I'm catching the tail-end of this one (May 2-8), but I didn't want the week to pass completely without taking the time to focus on a great book that's a fun read for kids of all ages.

Melisande by E. Nesbit is a great fairy tale story including a princess, a host of fairies, magic wishes, and several other classic bedtime story elements.  However, this is also a story that takes a few twists from the predicted path and plays upon traditional fairy tale cliches. The whole story is available here, but the illustrated version is an even more delightful read. 

Melisande is a princess born to a rather wise king and a very typical queen.  In discussing their daughter's christening party, the royal couple decides not to have a celebration since whenever a fairy is not invited - and one among the many is inevitably always forgotten  - that fairy places a curse on the child.  The parents' decision rather than pleasing the fae of the kingdom serves to anger them all.  Luckily, Melisande survives with only a single curse placed upon here - she is bald.  The young child grows up to be exceedingly kind and lovely and has very little regret of missing locks, but as she ages her mother decides she should have hair.

Using an overdue wish from her father's fairy godmother, Melisande wishes for hair and on her mother's urging gains a golden yard which grows an inch every day and grows twice as fast every time it is cut.  The wise king is the only one who initially sees folly in this wish as, "he had a mathematical mind, and could do the sums about the grains of wheat on the chessboard, and the nails in the horse's shoes, in his Royal head without any trouble at all."  And Melisande's ever growing hair becomes not just a source of amusement in the tale, but a great lesson in numbers for young learners as well!

As the gift becomes quite unmanageable, princes are summoned to the kingdom to solve the hairy dilemma (couldn't resist!), one comes up with the solution to not cut the hair off the princess but to cut the princess off the hair!  What seems an ingenious answer soon proves equally problematic, and once again it is the king who sees why.

"Humph!" said the King, who had a logical mind. And during breakfast he more than once looked anxiously at his daughter. When they got up from breakfast the Princess rose with the rest, but she rose and rose and rose, till it seemed as though there would never be an end of it. The Princess was nine feet high.
"I feared as much," said the King, sadly. "I wonder what will be the rate of progression. You see," he said to poor Florizel, "when we cut the hair off, it grows — when we cut the Princess off, she grows. I wish you had happened to think of that!"
I won't give away the ending of the story (and only said as much as I did because of the cover image with a rather giant princess) but it really is a clever and charming tale.  For young fans of the recent Disney hit movie Tangled, Melisande is a great story with a similar long-hair problem as Rapunzel and with humorous twists and turns to be encountered as it is solved.

Along with celebrating the joy of young readers during Children's Book Week, this story is also part of my 2011 Fairy Tale Challenge (5 of 12) begun by Tif at Tif Talks Books.  Feel free to share your thoughts about Melisande in the comments section or link up with your own post featuring your favorite Children's Book or Fairy Tale!

4 Response to "Melisande (Fairy Tale Fridays)"

  1. Rebecca says:
    May 7, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Hi Lisa! That sounds like an adorable and magical book for kids! :) I was thinking about joining the Fairy Tale challenge as well.

    BTW, I'm holding a giveaway on my blog next week if you are interested :)

  2. Iben says:
    May 8, 2011 at 3:37 AM

    Aw this sounds so cute! Have never heard of it before, thank you :D

  3. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    May 10, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I love E.Nesbit but hadn't heard of this one, it sounds great.

    I teach 7-8 year olds and they love Roald Dahl. I read George's Marvellous Medicine to them and had a parent come to tell me that one of them had gone home and started mixing up all the toiletries in the bathroom to make his own medicine! They also love Micheal Morpurgo books, the Horrid Henry series by Francesa Simon (I teach a few Horrid Henrys for sure!) and at the moment, Greek Myths and Legends.

    I'll be teaching older children next year (10 & 11 year olds), so it'll be interesting to find out what they like.

  4. lisa :) says:
    May 10, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Rebecca - The Fairy Tale Challenge has been lots of fun and you can join at any level you like! Let me know if you hop into it!

    noiashui - I'm not sure when it was first published, but my mom shared it with me not too many years ago (she's an elementary school teacher).

    TL - I loved Roald Dahl when I was that age too! Melisande is a great story for reading aloud to kids too - it's fun to see if they can guess what will happen at different points in the tale!

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