Birthday: March 31, 1844
Died At Age: 68
Sun Sign: Aries
Born in: Selkirk
Famous as: Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic
Quotes By Andrew Lang
Spouse/Ex-: Leonora Blanche Alleyne
father: John Lang
mother: Jane Plenderleath Sellar,
Died on: July 20, 1912
place of death: Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Andrew Lang was a Scottish writer and literary critic best known for collecting folk and fairy tales and publishing them in a series. He also wrote poems and novels, and was a great writer in his own right but it was his collection of fairy tales that earned him such wide spread popularity and not his own literary works. Lang’s fascination with folklore stemmed from his own childhood days spent in the picturesque Scottish Borderland of Selkirk which was a beautiful and dreamy place which kindled his imagination. Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the peaceful woods and the rustic charms of village life further motivated him to delve deeper into the magic and myth of folklores. He studied to become a journalist and worked as an editor for the ‘Longman’s Magazine’. Blessed with a dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor, he became well known for the articles he wrote for the magazine. He also wrote his own poetry and fiction, but the childhood fascination with fairy tales never left him. He meticulously collected fairy tales and folklores from far and wide and published them in a series for his readers. His series became immensely popular with the children and revolutionized children’s literature.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on March 31, 1844, in Selkirk, Scotland, to John Lang, the town clerk of Selkirk, and his wife Jane Plenderleath Sellar. He was eldest of the eight siblings.
He grew up in the scenic locale of Selkirk, a beautiful landscape that inspired in him a love for the outdoors, listening to and reading the tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce. His idyllic childhood gave roots to a lifelong fascination with folklores and fairy tales.
He received his early education from Selkirk Grammar School and then enrolled at the Edinburgh Academy, St. Andrews University. Subsequently he also attended Balliol College, Oxford.
He was a bright student with an innate love for reading. He was also a gifted writer and poet.
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He became a published poet and moved to London looking for better career opportunities. There he started working as a journalist. A talented writer, he was gifted with a dry wit and sardonic sense of humor which endeared him to the readers.
His knowledge about a variety of subjects combined with his engaging writing style made him a popular writer. He worked as the editor of ‘Longman’s Magazine’ and also wrote a column for it.
He was a prolific writer and contributed dozens of articles and essays to other newspapers and magazines including ‘Cornhill Magazine’, ‘Macmillan’s’, ‘The Daily Post’, ‘Forthnightly Review’, ‘The Overland mail’ and ‘Time’ magazine.
He was a historian known for his publications on folklore, mythology and religion. One of his early publication is ‘Custom and Myth’, which was published in 1884. A few years later, he published ‘Myth, Ritual and Religion’ in 1887 in which he explained the irrational elements of mythology.
He realized that in the late 19th century, native fairy tales were falling out of favor with the general public and were even being attacked by some educationalists as being harmful to children. In an attempt to challenge this belief he set out to collect and publish traditional folklores for children.
While other folklorists collected unrecorded stories from their original sources, Lang chose to gather those stories which were already recorded. He collected stories from all over the world, including many from well-known writers such as the Grimm Brothers and Madame d’Aulony. He also gathered stories from lesser known sources.
He published ‘The Blue Fairy Book’ in 1889. The book, beautifully illustrated with enchanting fairy tales, was met with instant success. Both adults and children were charmed by the magic of the tales, motivating Lang to continue the series.
The very next year, he and his wife published ‘The Red Fairy Book’ (1890) which became an even bigger success than its predecessor. He went ahead to publish many more such books in the series, each volume distinguished by its own color.
He published ten more volumes of the series between 1900 and 1910; the last volume being ‘The Lilac Fairy Book’.
His fairy book series led to resurgence in the interest in folklores and magical tales and revived the tradition of parents telling delightful fairy tales to children. He revolutionized children’s literature and inspired many others take up similar endeavors and publish their own series of fairy tales collections.
In a twisted irony of fate Lang, in spite of being a skilled writer with novels and poems to his name, became immensely popular for the collection of stories that he himself did not author.
He is best known for his edited series of fairy tales collectively known as ‘The Rainbow Fairy Books’—a collection of folklores and fairy tales published in a series of 12 beautifully illustrated volumes. The series cover 437 tales gathered from different cultures and countries.
Awards & Achievements
He was honored with Doctorates in Classics by the University of St. Andrews (1885) and Oxford (1904).
Personal Life & Legacy
He met Leonora Blanche Alleyne, the youngest daughter of C. T. Alleyne, while in London and married her in April 1875. They did not have any children. His wife played a prominent role in editing and organizing the stories in ‘The Rainbow Fairy Books’.
He suffered from ill health during his final years. He died of Angina pectoris on July 20, 1912.