Sunday, 29 December 2013
Book Review: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Fairy Tales are for children aren't they? We're all used to the sanitised versions in numerous books and films but as we're reminded in this wonderful collection by Philip Pullman, the original stories were often macabre and brutal. Pullman has rewritten the stories and added improvements where he saw fit - as surely the many storytellers who handed on these tales by word of mouth must have done - but they remain faithful to the spirit of original stories. There are characters blinded, beheaded, drowned, thrown into barrels with spikes pointed inwards, even being the talking animal isn't enough to avoid meeting a grisly end! Not then perhaps the best choice for very young children although I suspect there are many youngsters who will revel in the goriness. I would advise a read through first though before choosing a bedtime story.
Some of the tales work better than others of course, something Pullman himself often acknowledges. My personal favourite was The Juniper Tree and I also very much enjoyed Hans My Hedgehog and The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage.
I often skip the introduction in books but am glad I didn't here, Pullman writes a little about Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm but then goes into more detail about what the stock elements of these classic tales are and examines how they work as stories. It's not something I'd thought about before and both this introduction and Pullman's notes after each story certainly added to my appreciation of the collection.
I actually remember reading many of these fairy tales to myself under the bedcovers when I was around ten or eleven and loving the magic, absurdity and yes the more grisly bits too. This collection of fifty of the stories was a wonderful reminder of these traditional tales and would make a lovely addition to any bookcase.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in return for my honest opinion.
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman is published in the UK by Penguin Books.