REVIEW: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

Sunday, December 22, 2013 0:00
Posted in category Review

Book Cover Stevie‘s review of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman
Fairy Tales Collection published by Penguin Classic Deluxe Edition  29 Oct 13

I have mixed feelings about Phillip Pullman. I enjoyed his first two Sally Lockhart books (although I still haven’t read the third) but never managed to get into the his Dark Materials trilogy. On the other hand, I love fairy stories and their retellings, so I thought I’d give this book a go.

Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time, but this felt like quite a dry, academic read. Pullman constantly reminds us in his notes that the original tales had very little description or characterisation, but I can’t help wondering whether that was because the Brothers Grimm, or possibly the people they were interviewing, recorded (or recounted) very generic versions of each tale. As an oral tradition, I’d expect fairy stories to be infinitely adaptable to each new audience, and I was probably expecting Pullman to do something similar with his recounting of the 53 tales in this volume.

Some stories are as I remember them from childhood (Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella), some are obviously relatives of those I used to know well (The Fisherman and His Wife, The Brave Little Tailor, Mount Simeli), and quite a few are new to me (Hans-my-Hedgehog, The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs, The Three Snake Leaves). The notes at the end of each tale are generally informative as to which edition of Grimm Pullman has used for his version and what other stories he believes are related to the tale, but I find them a little repetitive at times.

This is one of those books that would be better as a chunky reference volume to dip into from time to time rather than a story collection to read from cover to cover in a few sittings. Some of the new-to-me stories are worth further investigation, so the book has served its purpose in that respect, but I don’t see myself reading the whole lot over again anytime soon.

Stevies CatGrade: C

Summary:

The acclaimed retelling of the world’s best-loved fairy tales by the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Golden Compass—now in paperback, and with 3 new tales!

Two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their first volume of fairy tales. Since then, such stories as “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Rapunzel,” and “Hansel and Gretel” have become deeply woven into the Western imagination. Now Philip Pullman, the New York Times–bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Here are Pullman’s fifty favorites—a wide-ranging selection that includes the most popular stories as well as lesser-known treasures like “The Three Snake Leaves,” “Godfather Death,” and “The Girl with No Hands”—alongside his personal commentaries on each story’s sources, variations, and everlasting appeal. Suffused with romance and villainy, danger and wit, Pullman’s beguiling retellings will cast a spell on readers of all ages.

Read an excerpt.

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