Once Upon a Time...



Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings has lured me into yet another fantastic challenge, wicked blog-fiend that he is. Perhaps it is that I first read about it at 4 a.m., but I think its allures would have worked their wiles on me at any hour, frankly. It is the Once Upon a Time Challenge, and the beauty of it (for me, and I suspect for many others) is that it will include many a work that I would inevitably sneak off to read in a guilty corner anyway while I should be working on other challenges, reading groups, and, well, the work I get paid for. The challenge will lend this surreptitious reading a much-needed dignity.

The challenge officially began five days ago, on March 22, and will run until the very toll of midnight on Midsummer's Eve (June 21), at which moment, presumably, all unread books will turn into pumpkins. Carl V. provides a number of different options for those with more or less time to devote to the challenge (or those who have varying levels of interest in and intimidation by the genres at its core). The one I have chosen is this: read five books from the four genres of Folklore, Fantasy, Mythology, and Fairytale.

I have tried to represent a range of genres and time periods in the list below, but have sorely neglected the fairy tale. Be soothed (as I am) by the fact that I have spent quite a bit of time, at various points in my life, reading fairy tales, from the Brothers Grimm and Anderson to Angela Carter and Bill Willingham's Fables comics. After my list of five - which is a bit serious, even stuffy, at times - I have added some "alternates" which I might dip into, time permitting (and I have a feeling that other reading will give way before it). This list will almost certainly grow when I have returned home from my travels and can take a gander at my bookshelves.


  • Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
    • I am already midway through (cheater!) this last in Fforde's flights of fancy on fantastic travel through the literary canon and the police procedural. (Can I add that my boyfriend and I had a huge fight the other night about the definition of "procedural"? It was a battle of epic proportions, and a draw was finally called.) I must also admit that it is on my Chunkster Challenge list. But the extreme dryness of the next entry on my list should make up for my hedging here.
  • Morphology of the Folktale by Vladimir Propp
    • A crucial work of theory and analysis that (as far as I know without having read it) investigates the core frameworks behind folkloric narratives of all types.
  • Metamorphoses by Ovid
  • The Golden Ass by Apuleius
    • These last two works are from my ongoing project based on the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Ovid's Metamorphoses, a long poetic work from which much of what we recall of classical mythology is drawn, is perhaps the more familiar of the two. The Golden Ass uses a fantastic premise (its protagonist, who is somewhat absurdly fascinated by magic, is transformed into a donkey) to contain a series of folktales and mythological narratives. It is also - according to Wikipedia - the only extant Roman novel.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
    • A classic of modern fantasy (and first in a famous series) that I have started several times, but somehow never finished. Well, now is its time.
Alternates/Extra Credit List:
  • Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  • The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
  • Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
  • The Light Ages by Ian MacLeod
  • A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  • A Thousand Nights and a Night
  • Grendel by John Gardner

15 Responses so far.

  1. You have some great picks--I may have to steal a few more for my list! I'm looking forward to stepping out of my usual reading routine, and I look forward to seeing what you have to say about these books! I've loved the Jasper Fforde series for some time now, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment of the Thursday Next books. (Have you seen fforde's website by chance? Always good for a laugh) Good luck with your reading!

  2. Chris says:

    I'm going to tackle A Game of Thrones as well for this challenge. I HIGHLY recommend Sabriel...that whole series was wonderful!

  3. Carl V. says:

    Nice list, alternates too! Glad you succumbed to my wickedness and decided to join in.

    You shouldn't have let out the secret about the pumpkins though, I expected to make a killing from the pie manufacturers come June 22nd.

  4. Some wonderful choices! I plan to read A Wizard of Earthsea too for this one. Good luck!

  5. Quixotic says:

    I'm another one planning on tackling Game of Thrones. I'm also revisiting Earthsea too - should be fun!

    Great list :-)

  6. I like your blend of classics and contemporary fiction - very nicely balanced list.

    Been wantng to read Metamorphoses for a while too - but not quite sure which version to pick up.

    Oh! You're doing A Game of Thrones as an option - as an epic fantasy series, it's powerful. I lovelovelove George R.R. Martin. Perdido Street Station - if you do read it, I'm interested to find out what you have to say about it. I read it some time back - found it disorientating with its bizarre denizens.

  7. altmin says:

    I make tasty pumpkin pie.

  8. Nymeth says:

    Great choices! I've been meaning to read some of those (like The Golden Ass) for a very long time.

  9. Bellezza says:

    I definitely need to tackle Metamorphosis by Ovid. Especially if it's one we must read before we die. Why is it that one can never be well read enough? Books are the joy of my heart, though, which is a good thing if my goal is to read them all before I go. It'll be fun to share this Challenge with you.

  10. pat says:

    Great list. I like the idea of having another list of alternates.

  11. Stephanie says:

    What a great list of possibilities. Fantasy is a pretty new genre for me. I'm just soaking up all the great titles!

  12. Petunia says:

    I have Metamorphosis on my bookshelves to be read at some future date. And now I have a few more titles to look up. Thanks.

  13. Very nice list. I just finished Something Rotten. Thought it was one of the best of the series. Look forward to your thoughts on the books on your list.

  14. Marina says:

    I'm curious to know what you think of Grendel. It seems to have had a resurgence in popularity.

  15. A Mervyn Peake person!I had a copy of Apuelius for years and never read it. Not that it wasn't interesting I'm sure but I just never got around to it *sigh* ***V

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