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I had a book of so-called modern fairy tales that were written by popular authors of the day. The book was published in the early to mid 90s, and I bought it from the Sci-fi book club. Some of the stories were silly, some were fantastical, and others were darker. It was probably close to 1000 pages, as I remember it being a thick hardcover.

I would really love to find this book again, as there were two stories in it I absolutely loved, and my copy of the book was ultimately destroyed in a flood.

ETA: One story was a very serious one, involving a young man, possibly a dwarf or similar, that was helping a princess. I think it was a princess, anyway. One passage I remember because it struck me was about how a cook took pity on him and regularly gave him pieces of sausage that had just about gone bad along with stale bread that was still good to eat, but not the nicest to eat.

Another story dealt with children in the present time being taken by fairies (maybe only one child) during the night, possibly as part of a dream. I cannot remember more of this story, but I enjoyed it.

I am remembering a third story that was completely irreverent, making fun of knights saving princesses, in some ways making it sound like high society California transported to a land oof knights and princesses. I think they had some sort of scoring system for knights.

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    Why don't you try describing the two stories you loved? Maybe somebody will remember the stories. – user14111 Apr 8 '15 at 11:00
  • I have no idea why I didn't think of that in the first place. Thank you. – methuseus Apr 8 '15 at 14:39
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    If you are sure the book you are looking for was published by the Science Fiction Book Club, you might try looking at isfdb.org/sfbc.html for it. The list there shows books published by them from 1950s through the early 2000s. – Mark Ripley Feb 13 '16 at 18:37
  • I did not find it on that list, but I may not have recognized the title. I did recognize a good number of other titles I bought from them, though. – methuseus Feb 16 '16 at 7:40
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    I'm looking for the exact same book, have you ever found it? If it helps I can describe some more of its stories: There's a story about a guy eating his own hat after surviving a pirate ship, and a story about a kid captured by a gnome that pilots a flying cat, and a story about a guy who makes a contract to play chess with the devil, and a story about a horse made of sweetbread. Another one is about a cast away man stranded on a island that eats fruits that make him dream, and he getting lost in his dreams. the Cover in the portuguese version as is dark blue and has the flying cat on it – Pedro Jul 18 '18 at 16:39
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I believe I discovered the name of the book in question, it is Terry Jones' Fairy Tales, written by Terry Jones and illustrated by Michael Foreman.

Three raindrops have an argument on their way out of a cloud ...A silly King goes for a walk with a dog tied to each leg ...An enterprising herring, bored of the North Sea, decides to swim right round the world ...Thirty short stories of magic and adventure penned by Monty Python team member, Terry Jones. Embracing the tradition of the fairy tale, but adding Jones' inimitable comic imagination and originality, each story makes a perfect bedtime read for children - and grown ups! 'Could become a 'modern classic' ...the book is a joy' - Brian Patten, "Spectator".

The contents of the book:

  • The corn dolly
  • The silly King
  • The wonderful cake-horse
  • The fly-by-night
  • Three raindrops
  • The butterfly who sang
  • Jack One-Step
  • The glass cupboard
  • Katy-Make-Sure
  • The wooden city
  • The ship of bones
  • Simple Peter's mirror
  • Brave Molly
  • The Sea Tiger
  • The wind ghosts
  • The big noses
  • A fish of the world
  • Tim O'Leary
  • The witch and the rainbow cat
  • The monster tree
  • The snuff-box
  • The man who owned the Earth
  • Why birds sing in the morning
  • The key
  • The wine of Li-Po
  • The island of purple fruits
  • The beast with a thousand teeth
  • Far-Away Castle
  • Dr. Bonocolus's Devil
  • The boat that went nowhere.
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    This may well be the book you were looking for (from your comment on the question); however, beyond the title, can you point out how this book matches the original poster's question? I noticed in the GoodReads reviews that this book has watercolor illustrations; I'd think of that as a significant detail, but it wasn't mentioned in the OP's post. – RDFozz Jul 18 '18 at 22:06
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I found not one, but two books that I was conflating together. The way I found them was by trolling various used bookstores for probably the last 15 years. Both were found within the last 6 months. The first I found, which was not the one I was really looking for, was The Outspoken Princess and The Gentle Knight: A Treasury of Modern Fairy Tales. It wasn't until I read through all the stories that I realized it was not the one I was looking for.

The stories were still good, especially the one titled The Dark Princess by Richard Kennedy. I do remember reading this one when I was younger, about a princess so beautiful she could not be looked at directly. I won't spoil it, but it's about actual true love.

The other book that I finally found was the proper one. It is titled Once Upon a Time edited by Lester del Rey and Risa Kessler. The dwarf story referenced above is titled Thistledown by Susan Dexter about a boy and a unicorn. The second story is Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks. It is about a boy in the present day who keeps imagining he is traveling with an elf around his neighborhood. Or is he imagining it? The third story is not quite how I described it. It is Prince Delightful and the Flameless Dragon by Isaac Asimov. It was not my favorite, but is still a good story.

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