Andrew Gabriel Lang was a prolific Scots man of letters. He was a poet, novelist, and literary critic, and a contributor to anthropology. He now is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales.
A gifted student and avid reader, Lang went to the prestigious St Andrews University (now holding a lecture series in his honour every few years) and then to Balliol College, Oxford. He would later write about the city in Oxford: Brief Historical and Descriptive Notes, published in 1880.
Moving to London at the age of 31, already a published poet, he started working as a journalist. His dry sense of humor, writing style and huge array of interests made him a popular editor and columnist and he was soon writing for The Daily Post, Time magazine and Fortnightly Review. It was whilst working in London that he met and married his wife Leonore Blanche Alleyne.
Amongst the most famous of Andrew Lang books are The Rainbow Fairy Books, growing from Lang's interest in myths and folklore which continued to grow as he and Leonore traveled through France and Italy hearing local legends. In the late 19th century, interest in the native fairy tales of Britain had declined and there were very few books recounting them for young readers. In fact, fairy tales and magical stories, in general, were being attacked by some educationalists as being harmful to children. It was to challenge this notion that Lang first began collecting fairy stories for the first of his colored fairy books, The Blue Fairy Book.
Whilst other folklorists collected stories directly from source, Lang set about gathering those stories which had already been recorded. This gave him time to collect a much greater breadth of fairy tales from all over the world, most from well-known writers such as the Brothers Grimm, Madame d'Aulnoy and others from less well-known sources. Whilst Lang also worked as the editor for his work and is often credited as its sole creator, the support of his wife, who transcribed and organized the translation of the text, was essential to the work's success.
The last Andrew Lang book, Highways and Byways of the Border remained unfinished after his death on 20th July 1912.