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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-class reminder of the strangeness and wonder of fairy tales
Other reviewers have wondered who this edition is for, exactly; I kept thinking it was precisely what I wanted, at least. Philip Pullman is a master storyteller and I loved these simple, restrained re-tellings from the Grimm Brothers' famous book. From rarer tales to the old favourites like Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella, I liked them all, and I loved being in contact...
Published 22 months ago by emma who reads a lot

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107 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine, but who is this book for?
Pullman's versions of some of the Grimms' folk stories are well enough written and his little summaries at the end of each tale give a bit of background to where each story originated and the different versions that have been told in the past. But from the moment I received the book and discovered that, to my amazement, there are no illustrations, I couldn't help but...
Published 23 months ago by FictionFan


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-class reminder of the strangeness and wonder of fairy tales, 20 Oct 2012
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
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Other reviewers have wondered who this edition is for, exactly; I kept thinking it was precisely what I wanted, at least. Philip Pullman is a master storyteller and I loved these simple, restrained re-tellings from the Grimm Brothers' famous book. From rarer tales to the old favourites like Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella, I liked them all, and I loved being in contact with the primal energy that originates from these stories - they are so fantastically odd! Pullman explores briefly why that might be, in his introduction, talking about how whole elements of the narrative can take place in a single sentence, with character as we conventionally know it almost entirely absent. I thought the book as a whole was respectful and delightful.

I have several other editions and I really like the balance in this one. If you read Maria TatarThe Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Editions) you will get fewer individual stories and more academic material, but this has plenty to be getting on with: a section after each tale makes it clear what the sources were for the original, who else has told the tale, and where Pullman himself has made changes. If you want a real little children's version, don't pick this - my recommendation would be Yummy: My Favourite Nursery Stories from the creator/illustrator of Maisy, where fairy tales are re-told in wonderful short form with good big pictures.

However for parents who want to know the stories by heart so that they can tell them to their children - surely the most appropriate way of doing it - this book is perfect.
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107 of 123 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine, but who is this book for?, 8 Oct 2012
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Pullman's versions of some of the Grimms' folk stories are well enough written and his little summaries at the end of each tale give a bit of background to where each story originated and the different versions that have been told in the past. But from the moment I received the book and discovered that, to my amazement, there are no illustrations, I couldn't help but wonder - who exactly is this book for?

Pullman has updated the language but not the stories so we have dreadful clashes like princesses in castles talking about weapons of mass destruction or giants saying 'Respect!'. This kind of pantomime humour made me think the books must be aimed at a young audience but then where are those missing illustrations? I also couldn't help feeling that with language like this Pullman's versions will date much more quickly than those I read in my childhood. On the other hand Pullman has deliberately gone back to the unbowdlerised versions of many of the stories and I'm not sure that I'd be happy to be reading some of these to my (mythical) young children. Rapunzel getting pregnant without really understanding what was happening to her? Houses described as being as filthy as 'pisspots'? Must be for a teenage or adult audience then? But if so, what do these versions add to the ones we all read when we were young? For me, the answer to that question was nothing much, I'm afraid.

In the end I came to the conclusion that the book is in fact aimed at a very specific target audience - Pullman fans. I doubt this will gain him many new ones, nor is it intriguing or different enough to draw in many fans of folk tales. Not a bad book, but I suspect many people who are delighted to see this in their Christmas stocking will be feeling a little deflated by Boxing Day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for more..., 12 Nov 2012
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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British author Philip Pullman has assembled fifty of the Grimm brothers' tales in "Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version". Whether you read them all at one time, or a few at a time, most seem to be a good reworking of the original stories. He also gives a few notes at the end of each one, with some explanations of the tale and other written interpretations of it.

However, those interpretations are not enough. I wish Pullman had written more about the tales as a whole. He has a well-written introduction to the book where he does hit on some of the wider themes of the tales and does write about the tales in a historical context. But, I had questions - "Why are kings and beautiful daughters such a common theme", "Why are all step-mothers vicious and their husbands wimps", and a few others which came to mind while reading the tales. While he does give "similar stories" and "sources" as end notes to each story, it was really not enough to provide a narrative throughout the book. There's little that binds the stories together in historical context. I wish he had chosen fewer than 50 tales, but written more about each story.

On the other hand, if the reader is only buying the book to read the stories, then Pullman does a good job. I was looking for more; and I didn't get it.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 25 Sep 2012
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
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No matter what your age, dear reader, I can confidently say that we have all grown up reading the timeless tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm. The youngest generations will at the very least have seen the Disney versions! From the Grimm's 200 or so stories, Pullman has selected & rewritten his favourite 50. These range from the famous (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood & well, you know the ones) to the obscure (anyone come across 'The Donkey Cabbage' before?). Prior to reading, I was concerned that Pullman would attempt to rework these tales for the modern audience - Cinderella pouring frappucinos for her 'facially challenged' sisters, perhaps. Thankfully, this is not the case & they remain stylistically & spiritually faithful to the originals. In the introduction, Pullman says that these stories will inevitably be told in different ways over different generations - a point which comparing Disney's 1937 Snow White to the bleaker Snow White and the Huntsman released in 2012 clearly illustrates. But for him, the Grimm's versions are already delightfully perfect in both structure & content, as their clutter-free simplicity is at the heart of their charm. It is because the prince is brave with no further explanation & the witch wicked without any complex analysis of her presumably dysfunctional childhood, that there is plenty of scope for the narrator to add their own spin, whether that narrator is Disney trying to add visual magic or a parent wanting to make the story more humourous or more scary for their children.

Pullman's faithfulness to the early Grimm versions results in some surprises. The Frog Prince, for example, is apparently the Frog King & once he returns to human form, there is an epilogue concerning his most loyal servant. The early version of Rapunzel is also somewhat more grisly than modern retellings may be, although in fairness the Ladybird version I read as a child was similar in content to Pullman's & I was not at all traumatised by the experience at the time. After all, let's face it, little boys like a bit of gore. But as opinions differ as to what is 'acceptable' these days, I would recommend introducing these tales to children in the way Pullman says is how they were intended - by reading them out loud. That way, you can quickly edit them if desired, while also enjoying the stories yourself. For the adult reader, there is also an erudite introduction on the history of these tales & Pullman's views on fairytales, as well as notes accompanying each story.

This is a beautifully made hardback with sewn binding & a gorgeous picture on the dust cover. Unfortunately this is the only picture included. Inside the cover is naught but white pages & black text but the most beautiful pictures are the ones painted by our imaginations - and these tales are feats of imagination. Also, pictures would arguably be at odds with the introduction & notes, which are clearly intended for adult readers. Either way, its solid cover is bound to withstand generations of reading, while its charming contents are bound to ensure that future generations will want to read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neither one thing nor the other, 21 Oct 2012
By 
Hamstead (UK) - See all my reviews
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As a child I devoured fairy tales and I thought that this book would be marvellous to have on my shelves. It's beautifully packaged externally and has a classy red ribbon bookmark. However, there are no illustrations inside the book. I like the fact that Pullman gives us the original versions, even if they are not always as pat and well rounded as later versions where rough edges have been smoothed off. I also like that each story is given a history and summary at the end.
What really pulled me out of the narrative and spoiled the story though was Pullman's updating of the language. Why couldn't he use ordinary plain English instead of throwing in words and issues that are perhaps current for now and won't stand the test of time? It's like seeing a woodland painting with a sudden big red splurge in the middle. I hated it. It may not bother some readers, but be aware. It's clunkily modernised, and I felt it was detrimental. Pity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once Upon A Time...., 15 Oct 2012
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
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As a respected author of fantastical fictions himself (if you haven't read
the wonderful "His Dark Materials" trilogy get thee to a bookshop forthwith!)
Philip Pullman is especially well-equipt to curate a collection of Grimm's
tales. In his introduction he tells us that he "wanted to produce a version
that was as clear as water" uncluttered by "modern setings...personal
interpretations...or poetic variations on the originals". Job done. This is
probably the finest re-telling of these timeless and magical stories imaginable.

Mr Pullman has chosen well. From the familiar to the less-well-known, he has
given a beautifully clear voice to fifty of them, in lucid prose which bounces
off the page with an energy and freshness absent from many other editions I
have encountered. Their structure remains intact but their new-found clarity
is as absorbing as it is enthralling. A great story-teller if ever there was!

From the pure enchantment of 'Snow White'; through the cruel entanglements
of 'Hansel and Gretel' and dark machinations of 'Godfather Death' to the
almost musical symmetries of 'The Juniper Tree' (Mr Pullman's favorite) we
are never less than captivated by the truly marvelous quality of his language
and masterful grasp of the essential components of each unfolding narrative.

The annotations and references are both informative and entertaining.
A splendid book for both young and old. Read aloud to anyone who will listen!

Highly Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Grimm Tales, 12 Oct 2012
By 
Armchair Pundit "Armchair Pundit." (Durham City, England.) - See all my reviews
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Once upon a long time ago I thought I'd read everything by the Brothers Grimm, but this selection has proved me wrong. I congratulate Mr Pullman upon his selection.
These tales must have been like the "Hammer films" of their day.
Not for the young Disney crowd, and here's a short passage from Cinderella showing why.
When the first sister attempts to try on the glass slipper the mother advises her, "If it doesn't fit, take this knife and cut a bit off your heel. It'll only hurt for a bit, and then you'll be queen."
Reading these new English versions may disturb the sensitive for a while, but then you'll will live happily ever after.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting commentary, but spoiled by some awkward updating, 17 Oct 2012
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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For me the chief virtues of this book are the postscripts to each story and the excellent introduction by Philip Pullman in which he outlines the chief characteristics of fairy tales and reminds us that the stories are of a different order to those we commonly read: motivation of characters, for example, is not something to fret about. So, if a man who is undecided about marrying resolves the dilemma by filling a holed boot with water and if it doesn't leak he will marry, and if it does he won't (The Three Little Men in the Woods) we simply accept it.

Indeed that quality is part of the fairy tale's appeal. He also reminds us that the stories are not 'texts' as we normally understand them, but narratives transcribed: each telling would inevitably be slightly different from the previous one, and each teller would impart something of themselves to any given rendering: this, of course, legitimates any changes which a newer version uses. Here, he gives us his versions of 50 of them with a little, often very interesting, 'light touch' academic apparatus appended to each tale. These are full of fascinating insights which I suspect would remain hidden from the average reader (myself included). For example, he points out in the commentary on Rapunzel: how the parents' fate is completely ignored, despite their longing for a child for years and her sudden abduction by the witch - in a novel such loose ends would be intolerable but here entirely appropriate; how the Grimms later bowdlerised their version to remove any reference to Rapunzel's pregnancy, an approach he firmly rejects.

This is surely right and reminds us of the fact that such stories are not simply pretty, Disney-esque entertainments but resonant folk tales which can contain meanings of deep significance. But in the process of retaining these elements which make the stories much more interesting, he also adopts idioms which, for me, fracture the aura of strangeness which the tales inhabit and actually are not essential to retaining theunderlying meanings which I agree are so important. 'You're her fancy boy, are you? You worm her way into her tower, you worm your way into her affections, you worm your way into her bed, you rogue, you leech, you lounge-lizard, you high-born mongrel!' I can live happily with the phallic symbolism of 'worm', but much of the rest rather grates, pulling the timeless quality of the tales into a period which is not quite now (lounge-lizard?) but very specifically mid twentieth century, neither contemporary nor timeless. (There are plenty of other worse examples and some which are even harder to justify as anything other than as a sort of misplaced 'coolness': 'Pisspots', 'Respect', etc. A bit silly, in my view.) It's one thing to reinstate elements to enhance their timeless vigour, it's another to highlight them in day-glow pink!

I enjoyed the book largely for the editorial elements and being reminded of the wonderful stories collected by the Grimm Brothers. But its pleasures began to pall a little as the spurious 'street' continued to appear: it prompted me to buy the Vintage 'Complete Fairy Tales', at a lower price than this collection and, as its title suggests, complete: that collection fails to highlight the features Pullman so rightly emphasises, but retains the fairy tale strangeness without being Victorian or archaic, which I like. Neither collection quite hits the spot.

I am really pleased that Philip Pullman has reminded me of some of the more essential elements in these wonderful tales, but rather wish he had been a little more subtle in doing so.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read?, 20 Oct 2012
By 
Peter Gordon (Bournemouth, Dorset United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I have no idea as to why Mr Pullman felt that this book needed to be written, nor whom it is intended for. One good thing that I can find to say, is that it includes many of the Grimms Tales of which I was unaware. In respect of those, I have no complaints.

It is indeed a well made and well presented book and would make a nice present for nostalgic adults.

I agree with other reviewers that the lack of illustrations is to be regretted. Whilst illustrations may not be necessary to assist adult readers understanding or his or her mind pictures, if adults wish to use this book and these stories as one more aid to the younger reader, then pictures may well encourage some of those self same young readers, whilst at the same time, not discouraging others.

I too was a little frustrated by Mr Pullmans efforts to update some of the language. In addition to the annoying word 'respect', I wondered at the expression 'lounge lizard'. Even a child, however in tune with modern vernacular, would need that explained. The only time that I heard this expression was in an episode of 'Hancocks Half Hour'.

I appreciate that for Mr Pullman, this was an intellectual exercise, which I doubt would have taken up much of his time, but still I cannot see its purpose. The original stories, which he has to be fair, left largely alone, really needed no re-interpretation. Nor am I sure that his personal notes add very much [certainly not to this reader], to the readers enjoyment or knowledge.

What it made me do is to search out my copy of Grimms Fairy Tales which I read many, many times in my very early years. The comparison will be interesting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The weird and very wonderful world of clear faery, 2 Oct 2012
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I confess I've been a devotee of fairy tales all my life. Indeed, the first downloads on my Kindle were various of the Andrew Lang collections.

So, why would I need more - well, the excellent, clean clear voice of Philip Pullman, which would tell some of these stories, which as he points out, are not sacrosanct text, but various transcribed versions of different voices telling the tales across space and time. Inevitably, some voices are fussier than others, some elaborations over time spoil the clear lines of the plain unvarnished tale

So Pullman gives us HIS voice telling the tales. He respects them hugely, and does not try to impose interpretation or give a spin of his own, he is merely interested in paring back so that the clean lines, the satisfying alliterations, the repetitions of events a certain number of times that the narrative requires, may be fully appreciated.

There is a short, fascinating introduction about the tradition of these tales, and following each beautifully recounted story, satisfyingly perfect in its often repeated 'Once upon a time' to 'Happily Ever After' is a short account of the substrate of each tale, who the original teller was (if recorded) in the original Grimm's publication, and sometimes some information about later academic or literary interpretations of the tale.

As others have noted, the lack of pictures (GOOD! you have to paint your own internal pictures) may make this not so suitable for younger children, plus the fact that these are Grimms, not the more prettified and less horrific Perrault versions, again, may mean some little ones might get nightmares from the pecked out eyes, the chopped off feet (Cinderella, Grimms version)and all the rest. Mind you, as these were of course originally tales for children anyway I suspect it may be more adults thinking 'these are too strong and frightening for children' than those children themselves thinking that!

A beautifully presented book as well - one of those which reminds the reader of the pleasure of the weight and heft of a book, the smell and feel of its pages, the lovely red bookmark ribbon, the attractive dustjacket. One for the bookshelf, to be read again, cover to cover, in a few years
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Grimm Tales: For Young and Old (Penguin Classics)
Grimm Tales: For Young and Old (Penguin Classics) by Philip Pullman (Paperback - 5 Sep 2013)
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