Ruth Manning-Sanders

Ruth Manning-Sanders was a Welsh-born English poet and author, well known for a series of children's books in which she collected and related fairy tales from all over the world. All told, she published more than 90 books during 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, and 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, found fame as a teenage artist in the 1920s.
After the Second World War and her husband's accidental death in 1953, 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
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
Along those same lines, Manning-Sanders notes in the foreword to A Book of Princes and Princesses
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., 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 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 publishing house 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 protegée of the English author Walter de la Mare, who spent at least one holiday with the Manning-Sanders's 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.

Selected volumes

"A Book of ..." series

These 22 anthologies or collections were published by Methuen 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.".

Other volumes