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!
There's no question: Philip Pullman certainly knows how to tell a story. His His Dark Materials trilogy stood out not just for that, but for it's moral complexity - such an advance, psychologically speaking, on the black and white world of C S Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. It was therefore all the more surprising to discover his attitude to fairy tales, which he seems to like mostly for their economy and swiftness. In his introduction he criticises fairy tale characters as being "cardboard cut-outs" (p.xiv) "not actually conscious (p.xiii), which at first made me think that he was unaware of the roles that these tales have (at least historically) performed for children, as outlined in Bruno Bettelheim's magnificent book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. But no - Bettelheim references this book directly. Later on, though, the game is up: he hates all this "sub-Jungian twaddle" (p.236). Pullman is a conflicted admirer of the genre. His favourite tale, "The Juniper Tree" suffers from many of the faults he finds elsewhere: it is ridiculous (the bird flies with a millstone round its neck) and - to adult eyes - morally repugnant (the husband happily eats the stew his wicked wife cooks from his murdered son). There are also some jarring moments, such as when a character finds out about something in the newspaper. Fairy tales don't have newspapers, and insertions such as these immediately take us out from the magical world in which fairy tales take place, back to the mundane, every day world of things. Like another reviewer, I ended up wondering who these tales were for. Pullman does not disclose whether he has read any of these tales to children - I suspect not. Perhaps this collection is symptomatic of an age where the fairy tale is fading in importance. Reading him I was reminded of Schnabel's comment on Mozart: that his music was "too easy for children, and too difficult for grown ups" ("zu leicht für Kinder und zu schwer for Erwachsene"). It seems to be the same with fairy tales.
50 stories retold - initially perhaps for grown-ups, who can then decide which best to read aloud to young ones before sleep.
Old favourites are here amongst a surprising number that may prove unfamiliar. Brief notes follow each, detailing the sources and disarmingly commentating. Pullman declares, "I am all in favour of stealing anything that works" - which he does most successfully. He is refreshingly critical of certain weaknesses and full of praise for tales he likes best, one in particular. Especially appealing is his scorn for certain attempts to dig deep for hidden psychological meanings ("sub-Jungian twaddle").
"Fairy Stories"? Surely a misnomer - there is scarcely a fairy around! No shortage, however, of witches, giants, wicked stepmothers (yes, plenty of those), talking creatures, royals (many of the kings either stupid or cruel). Be advised (as if you did not already know!) horrors abound - children chopped up for stew, an eye required in return for a slice of bread, miscreants boiled in oil or rolled down a hill in a barrel studded with nails, corpses of princes trapped in the hedge surrounding Sleeping Beauty.
The tales are delivered with directness and humour, vivid pictures created in just a few words ("her eyes glowed like the coals"). Occasionally there are modern allusions: a giant, impressed with a tailor, declaring, "Respect" (no high-five though); in the same story, reference to a weapon of mass destruction.
Personal favourites? "The Devil with Three Golden Hairs", "The Juniper Tree", "The Golden Bird", "The Two Travelling Companions". Also liked was this version of "Cinderella", minus a godmother - she replaced by doves in a hazel tree growing from the real mother's grave.
Such stories will probably never die, but do benefit from a freshening up now and then. This welcome anthology does exactly that. Revive here those cherished childhood memories of handsome heroes and heroines destined for happy-ever-aftering - it thoroughly deserved, after all they have been through.
The original Grimm fairy tales were first published in the early 1800s. They've been modernised and sanitised over and over again, in many cases rendering the original versions unknown to the modern audience. So given the originals are available very cheaply (and free on Kindle) what's to be gained by Philip Pullman's versions? Sadly for me, not much. Much of the dialogue has been modernised into current `trendy' speak, which already dates the book terribly (and gives it a ring of embarrassing dad trying to be hip with the kids), whereas on the other hand, the stories are almost back to their original Grimm scenarios. The two really don't gel at all. Adults wanting to read the heritage Grimm tale have it sullied by current hip speak, children will find the language accessible but the tales to be very un-PC and probably upsetting by modern standards. I also found Philip Pullman's critiques of the stories quite annoying. Where he explains he read version A of the story, then later versions B & C, so combined elements of all three was interesting. But I found his brusque accounts of what was wrong with the originals, and how he'd corrected them, rather arrogant and bad taste. Grimm's fairy tales are still in daily use with us after 200 years, let's see who bothers with Philip Pullman's version in two centuries time. I have read and enjoyed some of Philip Pullman's previous work, but this isn't a great piece of work by any standards.
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.
Nicely dark and gothic version of the Brother's Grimm fairytales, with coffins, boiling oil and princesses about to be burned at the stake aplenty!
Philip Pullman has written these tales in a style that will be familiar to anyone who has read early versions of the book, where the telling is always terse, to the point, and very black.
Refreshing to see some of the less well know stories revived e.g. The Twelve Brothers and The Singing Bone, though rest assured the more familiar tales are present too, e.g. Little Red Riding Hood and Rumplestiltskin.
Most of the stories have acompanying notes relating to source and similar tales. Would have loved some illustrations as well - there are none, save the fabulous cover art. But despite this, a lovely book.
A wonderful collection of old fairy tales for the Grimm brothers but modernised slightly by Philip Pullman. There are stories that everyone knows Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White as well as lots of other stories that are just as great and simple. Each story has a little information after it of how it came to be in the collection from the Brothers Grimm and others stories that it is similar too. The only thing that annoyed is how rude and derogatory Pullman is about the fairy story 'the girl with no hands' who remains faithful to her religion and that faith is rewarded. I know he isn't a fan of religion but there is no need for the way he slates this as some of the things he said about it being really unbelievable he accepts in others stories as supernatural qualities but the fact it is religious powers makes it unbelievable and 'never-shaken piety is nauseating'. It's a bit of double standard that annoys me but it just the one story and you can still enjoy the story by simply ignoring Pullman's commentator the end and moving on to the next story.
Immediately upon seeing this I thought I absolutely have to get this for two reasons, one that it is The Brothers Grimm and the second that the author is Phillip Pullman (one of my favourite authors). I perhaps foolishly didn't read the book description in full or any of the previous reviews and therefore assumed that the book would be similar (and ultimately less beat up) to my old copy of "The Complete Illustrated Stories of The Brothers Grimm by Chancellor Press published in 1984 (showing my age here!). However three quite big differences, one that it is not the complete stories of the Brothers Grimm (of which I believe there are over 210 and my old book has just under 200), two that it has no illustrations bar the front cover and three that I definitely wouldn't say that this book was for children, which I was hoping it may have been suitable for my son when he is older. For those reasons I am a bit disappointed in the book but having said all of that Phillip Pullman has still done a good job of 'updating' the 50 stories he has selected for a more modern audience and alongside the stories he has selected he has also explained the stories background and alternate titles/stories arising from them. A good retelling of many favourite and not so well known stories but I would definitely say that the target market has to be adults for this book so firmly going in my bookcase and I shall continue my search for a good less battered and overly read new children's version for my son.
I’m not entirely convinced by this collection of fairy tales.
Of course, Philip Pullman is an excellent storyteller – his His Dark Materials series is proof enough of that – but it feels as though he has held back in this collection. There are some tales that are enchanting – such as his retellings of Snow White, Rapunzel and Cinderella, and his fleshing-out of characters is convincing – but I must admit I skimmed many pages, bored. Grimm Tales is not his finest work – I feel as though he is far more skilled at original tales rather than reshapings of old.
Though I love the style, and I have a deep love for fairy tales, this collection simply did not cut it for me. I’ve given it three stars because there were a few I liked and loved, but overall, I’m not impressed by Grimm Tales. The beautiful cover cannot make up for the lack of excitement within the pages of this book. I wish I could write a more fulfilling review, but there is very little I can add, save that I have read other, better collections than Grimm Tales.