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3 of 3 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 on 20 Oct. 2012 by emma who reads a lot

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original Grimm fairy tales with commentary by Philip Pullman
This wasn't exactly what I was expecting - I'd imagined a modern retelling of classic tales with a twist, as is quite popular at the moment (a spate of films, the US TV series 'Once Upon a Time', the successful musical 'Wicked' etc.). It isn't. Instead it's a collection of fairy tales based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, presented by award winning author Philip...
Published 16 months ago by BookWorm


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3 of 3 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original Grimm fairy tales with commentary by Philip Pullman, 19 Nov. 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This wasn't exactly what I was expecting - I'd imagined a modern retelling of classic tales with a twist, as is quite popular at the moment (a spate of films, the US TV series 'Once Upon a Time', the successful musical 'Wicked' etc.). It isn't. Instead it's a collection of fairy tales based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm, presented by award winning author Philip Pullman. Without his famous name on the cover, this book would almost certainly not have achieved the same sales. But that's not to say it's bad - it isn't. Pullman always writes well and although he does very little to reinvent the tales, they are all readable. I'm not a fan of short stories, but I did enjoy working my way through these. It's actually rather fun, particularly reading the more authentic original versions of tales we think we know from Disney or other interpretations.

At the end of each story is a short commentary by Pullman. I'm not greatly interested in literary criticism or the history of folk tales, but I skimmed them and found some pretty interesting. It's all kept nice and short for the more casual reader. I did like reading his comments on the structure of the story and his criticisms at times of what he sees as flaws in the story structure. It made me think about these familiar tales in a different way. It would be a good book to introduce literary criticism to young people and get them thinking - certainly more fun than the tedious texts I ploughed through for GCSE after which I swore never to study English and ruin my pleasure of reading again.

Those with a particular interest in literary criticism, folk tales, or children's literature, will probably delight in this book. I found it entertaining and a bit different, but I didn't rush home to read it. I think that's a lot to do with personal taste, as I'm just not that excited by short stories. So it succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, it's just not something I could really get into.
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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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109 of 126 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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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 25 Sept. 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 Grimm Reading, 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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4.0 out of 5 stars A good adjunct to more traditional translations, 2 Jan. 2013
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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Philip Pullman is a writer of great sensitivity and humour, but he's never sentimental. That makes him the ideal voice to retell these classic tales for a new generation, without either Disneyfication or the cold hand of political correctness interfering with their essential power.

I found this anthology an interesting adjunct to my Folio reprint of the Edwardian translation by Mrs E Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Yes, Pullman plays with the tales, updating language, changing details or tweaking storylines where he thinks they need it, but purists who object to this approach are misunderstanding the basic nature of folk tales. Like folk songs, they should adapt to make sense in a new age: their power is mythic, and therefore survives modernisation of dialects or descriptions to suit a new environment. Pullman is a good writer and editor and his changes, once the reader is used to his style, do not jar within the context of the storytelling. All the familiar favourites are here - Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White - along with many which are far less familiar, probably unfairly so. I particulary enjoyed Pullman's version of "The Fisherman And His Wife", though his completely literal translation of the Low German "pissputt" rather than employing the usual euphemism "pigsty" may trip up those reading this one to young children!

The only possible drawback with this book is its lack of illustrations. Rackham is a hard act to follow, but I don't believe there's no illustrator available who could have done justice to these retellings (Dave McKean, who has collaborated with Neil Gaiman in the past, springs to mind.) Without pictures, the tone of the book appears more scholarly than it is in terms of tone and atmosphere, an impresion which is increased by Pullman's own textual notes. Perhaps the book isn't entirely sure who it's aiming at - children? Their parents? Academic folklorists?

If I was only going to buy one version of these tales, maybe I wouldn't start with this one. But it complements the more familiar versions available, and may well gain in popularity as time goes on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy tales of genius given a new breath of life by a modern master..., 15 Nov. 2012
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
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In this book, Philip Pullman, author of the masterful `His Dark Materials' trilogy, presents a new English retelling of fifty tales by the Brothers Grimm.

As you would expect, the old favourites we first read in school are here: `Hansel and Gretel', 'Rapunzel', `Snow White, `Cinderella' et al, but Pullman's vivid use of language and sheer clarity of vision brings a new vibrancy to these tales, even if you've previously read some of them to death.

There are some I've heard of, but never read before, such as `Faithful Johannes', `The Twelve Brothers' etc, and I found it very satisfying to encounter them in this book. Among the other stories I've never previously heard of, I particularly enjoyed `Bearskin', `The Goose Girl' and `The Singing Stone' for various reasons.

Some of these tales have almost nightmarish scenes that have haunted me since my early years. Who can forget lines like: `My, what big teeth you have, grandma!'? - to quote the text I'm more familiar with.

Pullman actually bills these as suitable reading `for young and old' - and he's dead right; they deserve widespread readership and they will, I believe, never pass out of human circulation as long as we occupy planet Earth. However, don't devour them all at one sitting as they can become somewhat repetitious. Read them one or two at a time and savour these delicious morsels at your leisure.

These tales are probably among the most widely-read short stories ever written - and there's a good reason for this; they tap into the dark side of the soul, the surrealistic landscape of the psyche, the haunted pathways of the unconscious... Truly, I couldn't describe their effects on the mind any simpler of more pretentiously than this.

So, this is a terrific volume of tales - and even in a more prosaic retelling they would still deserve a place on your bookshelves. However, in the masterful hands of this great modern author, they don't merely deserve a place, they DEMAND it.
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