After having this book for over 4 years, I read it now and I wonder why I waited for so long for this absolutely amazing book. But then I go back to my theory that books come to me at the right time and they decide when I would read them. In this book, Hermann Hesse talks about all the things that make up the magical and mystical stories, touch the human psyche and take you to a world that is explicitly an imagined entity, in this collection of 22 stories, written over 14 years in early 20th century.
Now strictly speaking, the stories would not fit in the definition of Fairy tales, sometimes they are folk tales, sometime a psychic journey of humans and spaces like cities, sometimes they are just a longish anecdote and sometimes just a short story. What is common is that the characters do go beyond the realm of what we humans perceive to be reality or practical reality, they can travel to other space in their dreams, they can time travel and they can sometime grant wishes. Each story is unique and different. A lot of them are about journeys and the opening up of human spirit through these journeys.
There are a few common themes that you may pick up like the wishes that are granted, not always lead to the happiness you thought they will bring. This particular story about a village where everyone in the village is granted a wish and this leads to a disaster for the village as a whole. The homecoming is another theme that author likes to explore. There is also a tone of not so positive image of women that he paints and most of his protagonists remain males. There are tales of human fragility, grit, perseverance and vanity; there is a range of human emotions. There is a story that tracks the journey of a city, which takes birth, flourishes and finally becomes ruins, traversing centuries and civilizations. Human journeys in most stories are solo and into the unknown. Sometimes the stories have an abrupt end and you wonder if the story is complete or the author left it to complete it another time. Stories are simple and are written with lots of imagery. There are lots of illustrations which make the imagery even more discreet.
A long introduction by the translator takes you through the life of Hermann Hesse and once you read this you are able to relate the stories to his own life, specially his relationships both with people and nature.
This is an ideal book for reading the bedtime stories. If I could, I would love to write stories like this someday, which are simple yet profound.