Have you been reading lots of children's stories, to help you decide whether to take the course?
Yeah. I've gone as far back as the late seventeenth century, though I know there were earlier children's stories.
So does that mean you've read Perrault's fairy tales? Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and so on.
Yes. They must be important, because no stories of that type had been written before, these were the first. Then there's The Swiss Family Robinson.
I haven't read that.
The English name makes it sound as though Robinson is the family's surname, but a more accurate translation would be The Swiss Robinsons, because it's about a Swiss family who are shipwrecked, like Robinson Crusoe in the novel of a century earlier.
Well I never knew that!
Have you read Hoffmann's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King?
Wasn't that the basis for Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker?
That's right. It has some quite bizarre elements.
I hope you've read Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince. It's probably my favourite children's story of all time.
Mine too! And it's so surprising, because Wilde is best known for his plays, and most of them are very witty, but The Happy Prince is really moving. I struggled with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings -- three long books, and I gave up after one.
It's extremely popular, though.
Yeah, but whereas something like The Happy Prince just carried me along with it, The Lord of the Rings took more effort than I was prepared to give it.
I didn't find that -- I love it.
Another one I've read is War Horse.
Oh yes. It's about the First World War, isn't it? Hardly what you'd expect for a children's story.
Exactly, but it's been very successful. Have you read any...