Ruth Manning-Sanders

Last updated

Ruth Manning-Sanders
Born(1886-08-21)21 August 1886
Swansea, Wales
Died12 October 1988(1988-10-12) (aged 102)
Penzance, Cornwall, England

Ruth Manning-Sanders (21 August 1886 – 12 October 1988) was a Welsh-born English poet and author, known for a series of children's books for which she collected and related fairy tales worldwide. All told, she published over 90 books in her lifetime.




Ruth Vernon Manning was the youngest of three daughters of John Manning, an English Unitarian minister. She was born in Swansea, Wales, but the family moved to Cheshire when she was three. As a child, she took a wide interest in reading books. She and her two sisters wrote and acted in their own plays. She described her childhood as "extraordinarily happy ... with kind and understanding parents and any amount of freedom."

According to a story she tells in the foreword to Scottish Folk Tales, she spent her summers in a farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands named "Shian", which she says means the place where fairies live. There old Granny Stewart loved to tell stories and Manning loved to listen to them.


Manning studied English literature and Shakespearean studies at Manchester University.


She married the English artist George Sanders in 1911, when they both changed their names to Manning-Sanders. She spent much of her early married life touring Britain in a horse-drawn caravan and working in a circus, a topic she wrote about extensively. The family eventually moved into a cottage in the fishing hamlet of Land's End, Cornwall. One of their two children, Joan Manning-Sanders (1913–2002), found fame as a teenage artist in the 1920s.

Her husband died in an accident in 1953.

Literary career

Manning-Sanders took to publishing dozens of fairy-tale anthologies, mostly during the 1960s and 1970s. She writes in the foreword to a 1971 anthology, A Choice of Magic

There can be no new fairy tales. They are records of the time when the world was very young; and never, in these latter days, can they, or anything like them, be told again. Should you try to invent a new fairy tale you will not succeed the tale rings false, the magic is spurious. For the true world of magic is ringed round with high, high walls that cannot be broken down. There is but one little door in the high walls which surround that world – the little door of "once upon a time and never again." And so it must suffice that we can enter through that little door into the fairy world and take our choice of all its magic.

Some of Manning-Saunders's fairy-tale compilations include a discursive foreword on the origins of the tales retold. The stories in A Book of Dragons hail from Greece, China, Japan, North Macedonia, Ireland, Romania, Germany and elsewhere. She goes out of her way to say "not all dragons want to gobble up princesses." The book includes tales of kind and proud dragons, along with savage ones.

Insight into how Manning-Sanders believed fairy tales should usually end is given in her foreword to A Book of Witches

Now in all these stories, as in fairy tales about witches in general, you may be sure of one thing however terrible the witches may seem – and whatever power they may have to lay spells on people and to work mischief – they are always defeated. ... Because it is the absolute and very comforting rule of the fairy tale that the good and brave shall be rewarded, and that bad people shall come to a bad end.

Along those same lines, Manning-Sanders notes in the foreword to A Book of Princes and Princesses

And so you will find, as you read these stories, that they all have one thing in common. Though they come from many different countries, and were told long, long ago by simple people separated that they may not even have known of each other's existence, yet the stories these people told are all alike in this they every one have a happy ending.

While many of Manning-Sanders's tales are not commonly known, she includes stories about more famous figures such as Baba Yaga, Jack the Giant-Killer, Anansi, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Robin Hood and Aladdin. The dust jacket for A Book of Giants notes "her wit and good humour. There is not a word wasted."


Manning-Sanders died in 1988 in Penzance, England. Marcus Crouch wrote in the February 1989 issue of The Junior Bookshelf, "For many long-lived writers, death is followed by eclipse. I hope that publishers will continue to re-release Manning-Sanders's priceless treasury of folk-tales. We would all be the poorer for their loss."


Many of her children's fairy-tale titles were memorably illustrated by Robin Jacques, who expressed a preference "for children's books of the more imaginative and fanciful kind, since these leave greater scope for illustrative invention, where I feel most at home. Thus, my work with Ruth Manning-Sanders has proved most satisfying, and the twenty-five books we have done together contain much of the work that I feel personally happiest with." Other illustrators of her fairy tales included Victor Ambrus, Scoular Anderson, Eileen Armitage, Raymond Briggs, Donald Chaffin, Brian Froud, Lynette Hemmant, C. Walter Hodges, J. Hodgson, Annette Macarthur-Onslow, Constance Marshall, Kilmeny Niland, William Papas, Trevor Ridley, Jacqueline Rizvi, Leon Shtainmets, William Stobbs, and Astrid Walford.

For children's literature, Manning-Sanders's American and international publishers included E. P. Dutton, Heinemann, McBride, Laurie, Oxford University Press, Roy, Methuen & Co. Ltd., Hamish Hamilton, Watts and Co. (London), Thomas Nelson, Angus & Robertson and Lippincott.

She worked for two years with Rosaire's Circus in England. Her novel The Golden Ball. A Novel of the Circus (1954) is said to include parallels with the life of Leon LaRoche, a famed circus performer with Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1895 through 1902.

She was a poet and novelist, notably in the years up to World War II. At least two of her early poetry collections – Karn and Martha Wish-You-Ill – were published by the Hogarth Press run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Three of her poems appeared in the 1918 volume "Twelve Poets, a Miscellany of New Verse", which also includes 10 poems by Edward Thomas. She won the Blindman International Poetry Prize in 1926 for The City, and was for a time a protégée of the English author Walter de la Mare, who spent at least one holiday with the Manning-Sanders family in Cornwall. While living in Sennen, Cornwall, Manning-Sanders was for a time a neighbour of the British writer Mary Butts.

Manning-Saunders's short story, "John Pettigrew's Mirror," appeared in the 1951 anthology "One and All – A Selection of Stories from Cornwall," edited by Denys Val Baker. The story was republished at least once, in the 1988 anthology "Ghost Stories" edited by Robert Westall. Her story, "The Goblins at the Bath House" from A Book of Ghosts and Goblins was read by Vincent Price on an LP titled "The Goblins at the Bath House & The Calamander Chest," published by Caedmon in 1978 (TC 1574).

Selected volumes

"A Book of ..." series

These 22 anthologies or collections were published by Methuen (Dutton in the US) and illustrated by Robin Jacques.

The Library of Congress reports also a 1970 anthology compiled by Manning-Sanders, The Book of Magical Beasts, published by T. Nelson and illustrated by Raymond Briggs "Modern and ancient poems and short stories from around the world about make-believe beasts."LCCN   79-123111.

Other volumes

Sources and further reading

Related Research Articles

Fairy tale Fictional story typically featuring folkloric fantasy characters and magic

A fairy tale, fairytale, wonder tale, magic tale, fairy story or Märchen is an instance of European folklore genre that takes the form of a short story. Such stories typically feature mythical entities such as dwarfs, dragons, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, griffins, mermaids, talking animals, trolls, unicorns, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments. In most cultures, there is no clear line separating myth from folk or fairy tale; all these together form the literature of preliterate societies. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends and explicit moral tales, including beast fables.

Shapeshifting Ability to physically transform through an inherent ability, divine intervention or generic tendencies

In mythology, folklore and speculative fiction, shapeshifting is the ability to physically transform oneself through an inherently superhuman ability, divine intervention, demonic manipulation, sorcery, spells or having inherited the ability. The idea of shapeshifting is in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism, as well as the oldest existent literature and epic poems such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad. The concept remains a common literary device in modern fantasy, children's literature and popular culture.

Trina Schart Hyman was an American illustrator of children's books. She illustrated over 150 books, including fairy tales and Arthurian legends. She won the 1985 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges.

Robin McKinley

Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley is an American author of fantasy and children's books. Her 1984 novel The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as the year's best new American children's book.

<i>Langs Fairy Books</i>

The Langs' Fairy Books are a series of 25 collections of true and fictional stories for children published between 1889 and 1913 by Andrew Lang and his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne. The best known books of the series are the 12 collections of fairy tales also known as Andrew Lang's "Coloured" Fairy Books or Andrew Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors. In all, the volumes feature 798 stories, besides the 153 poems in The Blue Poetry Book.

Donkey Cabbages German fairy tale

"Donkey Cabbages" is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, tale number 122. A man shoots birds in a forest and gains magical objects. By also ingesting the heart of one of the bird he shot, he acquires an inexhaustible source of wealth. Later on, his magical abilities and items are stolen by a trio of witches, but regains thanks to a magical herb that causes a transformation into donkeys.

<i>A Choice of Magic</i> 1971 book by Ruth Manning-Sanders

A Choice of Magic is a 1971 anthology of 32 fairy tales from around the world that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. In fact, the book is mostly a collection of tales published in previous Manning-Sanders anthologies. Stories are pulled from A Book of Princes and Princesses (1969), A Book of Giants (1962), A Book of Dwarfs (1963), A Book of Dragons (1964), A Book of Ghosts and Goblins (1968), A Book of Witches (1965), A Book of Mermaids (1967), and A Book of Wizards (1966). There are also four previously unpublished stories.

<i>Peter and the Piskies</i>

Peter and the Piskies: Cornish Folk and Fairy Tales is a 1958 anthology of 34 fairy tales from Cornwall that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders and illustrated by Raymond Briggs. It was the first in a long series of such anthologies by Manning-Sanders.

<i>A Book of Giants</i> 1963 fairy tale book by Ruth Manning-Sanders

A Book of Giants is a 1963 anthology of 13 fairy tales from Europe that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. It is one in a long series of such anthologies by Manning-Sanders. It was the first anthology to receive the familiar "A Book of..." title that Manning-Sanders would become notable for.

<i>The Red King and the Witch: Gypsy Folk and Fairy Tales</i>

The Red King and the Witch: Gypsy Folk and Fairy Tales is a 1965 anthology of 25 tales that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. It is one in a long series of such anthologies by Manning-Sanders.

The Old Witch is an English fairy tale collected by Joseph Jacobs in his 1894 book, More English Fairy Tales. It is also included within A Book of Witches by Ruth Manning-Sanders and A Book of British Fairy Tales by Alan Garner.

These works were written or edited by the American fiction writer Andre Norton. Before 1960 she used the pen name Andrew North several times and, jointly with Grace Allen Hogarth, Allen Weston once.

Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales is a 1960 anthology of 19 fairy tales from North American Indian culture that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. It is one in a long series of such anthologies by Manning-Sanders.

Cornish mythology Folk tradition and mythology of the Cornish people in England

Cornish mythology is the folk tradition and mythology of the Cornish people. It consists partly of folk traditions developed in Cornwall and partly of traditions developed by Britons elsewhere before the end of the first millennium, often shared with those of the Breton and Welsh peoples. Some of this contains remnants of the mythology of pre-Christian Britain.

<i>Folk and Fairy Tales</i>

Folk and Fairy Tales is a 1978 anthology of 25 fairy tales from around the world that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. In fact, the book is mostly a collection of tales published in previous Manning-Sanders anthologies. Stories are pulled from A Book of Dragons, A Book of Mermaids, A Book of Witches, A Book of Dwarfs, A Book of Devils and Demons, A Book of Kings and Queens, A Book of Magic Animals, A Book of Giants, A Book of Ogres and Trolls, A Book of Wizards, A Book of Enchantments and Curses and A Book of Monsters.

A Cauldron of Witches is a 1988 anthology of 12 fairy tales from around the world that have been collected and retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders. It was the final published book in a long series of such anthologies by author Manning-Sanders, who died in October 1988 at age 102.

Barbara Grace de Riemer Sleigh (1906–1982) was an English children's writer and broadcaster. She is remembered most for her Carbonel series about a king of cats.

Diana Wynne Jones was a British writer of fantasy novels for children and adults. She wrote a small amount of non-fiction.

Bibliography of fantasy writer Jane Yolen: