For those of us brought up on Grimm's fairy tales (like me) - this is a real treat. I realised long ago that these stories have had a real influence on my life - honest! They are retold in a simple way that captures their very essence and the comments at the end of each story are very interest.
I always found fairy tales enchanting but disturbing. I can't imagine the magic, but totally get the grimness in them.
Phillip Pullman, retelling these tales from the perspective of the story teller, makes their telling more important than the tale.
In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari talks about how folk/fairy tales might've come about with long evenings to kill and no iPhones when early humans first gave up nomadic life.
In her brilliant book Gossip from the Forest, Sara Maitland explains how these stories might've found inspiration from the natural world.
And through this book, Phillip Pullman tells us about the process through which those early ancestors with time on their hands and active imaginations, turned these inspirations from the natural world into tales that continue to fascinate and entertain us.
Has Phillip Pullman been knighted yet for his contributions to the development of the human mind? He's certainly the master storyteller of our times.
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.
4.5 stars. I audio read this, with the wonderful Samuel West reading. Recommended version.
Very enjoyable retelling of 50 of the Grimms' tales, most familiar but a few lesser known ones.
For the most part, it seems Pullman has just gently adapted some of the language but occasionally there's a moment that would require a parent to quickly think on their feet or skip ahead (or brave the discussion): Rapunzel getting pregnant for instance, or a poor couple living in a 'pisspot'.
Maybe one to read WITH a child, but an adult will also enjoy reliving these wonderful fairy tales and discovering a few new ones.
There's also a very informative introduction that offers a few points about the structure and style of a fairy tale that I found useful.
Whether fan of Pullman or of the Grimm Brothers, this collection will delight all. There is a lot of talk in the readers' reviews here of such or such versions and technicalities etc...I would not look into it too closely personally, but having compared Pullman's with my Penguin edition of the Grimms brothers I was surprised to see that there isn't that much of a difference. Perhaps Pullman has made the tales more fluid, more readable, or perhaps his name is enough to re-hype them? I was also wondering if he came to that project being short of inspiration for a story of his own but in any case the result is a splendid, attractive book that will be the perfect Christmas present for both children and adults. There is a timeless magic to these strange, gruesome, eery, beautiful tales and one can simply never get tired of re-reading them and here is the perfect opportunity for doing just that. A treat.
My mother would read Grimm's Fairy Tales to me when I was a child and I have always loved them. It is constantly a worry when someone decides to re-write them and put their own spin on them, even Philip Pullman. It pains me to say that I was right to be worried.
The brothers Grimm have always been "Grimm by name and grim by nature", that has been part of their appeal.
Most of the stories tend to have the atypical beautiful girl who is almost always the (step)-daughter of a nasty, and possibly evil, mother (now frequently changed to step-mother); fathers are gutless wonders who are at worst complicit in the actions of their "wicked" wives regardless of the fact that the child(ren) is/are his own flesh and blood; and that no matter how manipulative or nasty the girl is she is always beautiful, the one the reader is to feel sorry for and the one, who regardless of her actions, comes out on top. All her sisters must be ugly and brothers (if she has any) are dim. Oh, and there must always, ALWAYS, be a happy ending ... no matter how daft.
Daft? Well, consider Hansel and Gretel. Daddy dearest takes his little darlings out for a walk deep into the woods with every hope that he can lose them and that they will be devoured by wild animals. After several failed attempts at this he finally succeeds in ditching his little treasures and walks home to live happily ever after with the misses.
The children stumble across an old ladies gingerbread house, and being the upstanding young people they are they decide to, literally, eat her out of house and home. When she invites them in and wants them to make recompense for the damage they have done (a little house work from Gretel, while all the time feeding the greedy Hansel) the ungrateful pairing shove the old lady in to the oven. They dance and sing while she is burnt alive, and then to add insult to injury they steal her life savings and run home to the welcoming arms of their avaricious parents. These are the same parents that were trying to get rid of them in the first place.
Oh yes, in order to get away with this horrendous murder they tell everyone that this poor old lady was a "witch".
Like I said "daft". They would have been better off living in the forest with the old lady.
I enjoyed reading about the changes that have been made of the centuries since they were first written down and published by the Grimms. Yet Mr Pullman doesn't tell us which bits he's altered and why. Such a shame as I would have liked to have known about those above the obvious.
To be honest, I don't think that the stories need altering, they have been fine for about 250 years; so why? To me it is like someone taking one of the classics and re-writing it to "update" it for "modern times" ... innit! It doesn't work.
The other disappointment is the lack of illustrations. A book of Fairy Tales, regardless of the fact that they have been "updated" should have illustrations.
They are projected as "tales for young and old" - as someone who is in the middle of this description I have to admit I was very disappointed
From my point of view as a psychologist I would love to know what the mother of the original authors did to give every adult female such a nasty undertone