58. The Golden Phoenix

The Golden Phoenix: Eight French-Canadian Fairy Tales by Marius Barbeau
Retold by Michael Hornyansky. Illustrated by Arthur Price

Pages: 144
Finished: Mar. 12, 2009
First Published: 1958
Genre: fairy tales, folklore
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: As many of my regular readers will know I always read a tale (fairy, folk, myth, legend, etc) to my 8yo each school day as a part of our homeschool day. We are currently learning North American history and the French-Canadian tale is appropriate to read at this time.

First sentence:

There was once a King renowned for his wisdom.

Comments: This is a collection of eight tales collected by Marius Barbeau (b. 1883) during the first half of the 20th century. He set out in Grimm fashion and collected fairy tales and folklore, from the French-Canadians, that had been passed down generation to generation since the 1600s. His entire collection is housed at the National Museum of Canada. When he wrote these tales he wrote in the words of the people telling the tales, usually rural, uneducated folks. He then collaborated with Michael Horyanski to re-write a small selection in a polished literary manner suitable for the masses to read and enjoy.

I have always had this book my entire life. Not the exact copy I have now, but whenever for some reason I give up the book I will always find another at a thrift shopgarage sale and pick it up again. As a child I had the scholastic paperback, but I have never read the book until now; some thirty-odd years later!

These tales are European in origin, most but not all, have a French setting and they have most likely been altered from there European origin by the French-Canadians in their re-telling through the generations. None of them however is set in Canada, or Canadianized. These are some of the best fairy tales I've read. Each is rather long, we would read half one day and half the next. They mostly follow the tradition of three brothers who set out to accomplish something and the youngest one comes back with the prize and usually a princess to boot. Again mostly, each uses repetition as a literary device, brother two following the exact same steps as one, then brother three following along until he deviates by being so much wiser than the others. The brother theme is just an example, each one of these tales is unique and many traditional fairy tale plots are included. The artwork is clearly a product of the time of publication, being black and white drawings with a singular colour (ie. red, yellow, etc) added in.

The 8yo really enjoyed these tales, in fact he was often spellbound. There is something special about a book your are reading to your child and when glancing over at them to see that look on their face as they hang onto each word you read. I wholeheartedly recommend these tales to all, young and old, who are interested in traditional fairy tales. The book is currently out of print, but they always turn up in used book stores, thrift shops and garage sales plus I'm sure it will be readily available from online book dealers. Try to find a copy, it's worth the read.


  1. Okay, never heard of this before! I want to read it now, though...

  2. That is such a great feeling when the kids enjoy books read out loud! I did a children's program the other day at my library, and I read that old classic, Caps for Sale. When I looked at the children during the story, they were listening in utter silence, they were so taken by the story - and these were 2 to 5 yr olds! Anyway, this sounds fabulous, and I'll be keeping a lookout for it. Thanks for the review!

  3. Kailana - I can't believe you've never heard of this before! I noticed on your blog somewhere that you've read it but I don't think I've seen a review yet. Can't wait to see what you thought of it. If you did review it can you direct me to it?

    Darla - yeah, that look is precious isn't it. Caps for sale, that brings back memories. The 8yo had that one as a favourite for the longest time. I had it memorized we read it so many times!

  4. I've had a copy of this since childhood and love it. Some great stories here. Glad you're sharing it with your 8 yr old!


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