I love classic fairy tales, but sometimes you're in the mood for something a bit different. For a westerner, these Japanese tales are just that. Sometimes fairy tales can get a bit predictable, but there's no danger of that with these stories. Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things by Lafcadio Hearn is a collection of Japanese supernatural horror stories, and Royall Tyler's Japanese Tales will transport you to medieval Japan and introduce you to ghosts, demons, healers, and saints. Some of the animal fable type stories were quite graphic, but then, Grimm's Fairy Tales aren't all snuggles and cotton candy, either.
It's interesting to read folk tales from different countries. Sometimes you discover a familiar story in different guise, and it makes you wonder if that's the original one. When people traveled to distant lands, they took their stories with them, and the best ones got adopted by the locals. Pretty cool, huh?
This beautiful book is a souvenir of a trip to Scotland, but you don't have to sit on the shores of a dark loch to enjoy these tales. Pour yourself a dram of the good stuff and settle down in front of the fire to learn all about selkies, giants, mermaids and ogres.
Have you heard of Baba Yaga yet? Trust me, you need to. Russian tales are dark and magical, and they appeal to those who like their fairy tales dark and gruesome. My edition is in Finnish, but you can probably pick up a nice collection on Amazon.
The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries By W. Y. Evans-Wentz isn't exactly fairy tales, but a "scientific" book of a folklorist gathering stories of the Fey in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Brittany. I found it a fascinating read, and a treasure trove of story ideas. Be warned, the writing's a bit on the dry, scholarly side. I bough this in a magic shop in Edinburgh, so that makes the book extra special to me.
This is for all the Finnish readers out there. Myytillisiä Tarinoita by Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura is a classic for anyone interested in Finnish ghost stories and folklore. You''ll probably have to track it down at the library, but trust me, this book is worth it. (No translation that I know of, sorry.)
So, that's my picks. Have a book recommendation of your own? Post it in the comments.