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Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New…

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (edition 2012)

by Philip Pullman

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6722214,252 (4.02)28
Title:Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Authors:Philip Pullman
Info:Viking Adult (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Borrowed, Read but unowned
Tags:read, fiction, short stories, borrowed, library

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Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Jakob Grimm


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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
I thought I might read several of these, but perhaps not every single one. I started by reading each tale Pullman cited in his introduction, then the most popular classics (Cinderella, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Thousandfurs, etc.), but they're each so short, and if you so much as glimpse the first sentence it's hard to stop reading. So, I read them all, and encountered many wicked stepmothers and witches, beautiful princesses, brave/strong/clever men and children, talking animals, magical objects (golden or not), and things in threes. I haven't read any complete translations of the Grimms' fairy tales as an adult, so I don't know how this one compares to others, but it seems quiet excellent to me. I would have enjoyed even more commentary on each story.

From the introduction:

[excerpt from James Merrill's poem The Changing Light at Sandover]:
Up so long and variously by
Our age's fancy narrative concoctions,
I yearned for the kind of unseasoned telling found
In legends, in fairy tales, a tone licked clean
Over the centuries by mild old tongues,
Grandam to cub, serene, anonymous.

There is no psychology in a fairy tale. The characters have little interior life; their motives are clear and obvious....Nothing...is concealed.

Realism cannot cope with the notion of multiples; the twelve princesses...the seven dwarfs...exist in another realm altogether, between the uncanny and the absurd.

Swiftness is a great virtue in the fairy tale. A good tale moves with a dreamlike speed from event to event, pausing only to say as much as is needed and no more.

The speed is exhilarating. You can only go that fast, however, if you're travelling light; so none of the information you'd look for in a modern work of fiction...is present. And that...is part of the explanation for the flatness of the characters.

There is no imagery....When what you want to know is what happens next, beautiful descriptive wordplay can only irritate.

The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration.

The only thing to do, it seems to me, is to try for clarity...


The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich - "In the olden days, when wishing still worked..." (3)

Hansel and Gretel - "She tore him to shreds with her criticism, and he had no defence; if you've given in once, you have to give in ever after." (78)

The Fisherman and His Wife - "Put me back in the water, there's a good fellow." "Fair enough," said the fisherman. "Say no more. The word of a talking fish is good enough for me." (93)

The Riddle - Neatness and clarity are great virtues when you're telling a story. (note, 132)

The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage - "But we're never content with living well if we think we can live better." (133)

The Girl with No Hands - "But aren't fairy tales supposed to be full of preposterous things? No." (note, 169-170)

Gambling Hans - "So Hans had nowhere to go but hell, and when he knocked on the gate there, they let him in at once. There was no one at home but the Devil himself and all the ugly devils, because the handsome devils had gone to earth on business." (271)

The Two Travelling Companions - "But whoever digs a put for someone else falls into it himself." (303) ( )
  JennyArch | Dec 2, 2014 |
What's not to love about this. Grimm's fairy tales bear a lot of retelling, and that's all this is. But is is so nicely done. Pullman takes the bones of each story in this collection and puts it in his own words. None of them are updated in terms of their setting, or job (this is full of tailors and peasants and princes, as you would expect) but the words are contemporary. That sounds like it would be odd, but it isn't. In fact at times it works beautifully, in the tale of the idle pair, their speech patterns are those of the idle youf of today's society. He also takes the time to identify the base tale and where it crops up in other folk collections and what drew him tot he story, or how it could be modified. Some of the stories are familiar, some less so. The one things that stuck me again and again is how dark and violent some of the tales are; describing them as fairy tales puts a gloss on them that is not true to the source text. None of these is very long, but they are busy and vibrant and a joy to read. ( )
  Helenliz | Aug 31, 2014 |
Between 1812 and 1857, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm collected folk tales and published them in six ever-increasing editions. In this edition, Pullman selects 53 that he thinks are the best stories, and tells them in his own voice, while still maintaining their traditions. Each tale contains three sections: the tale itself, the bibliographic details, and Pullman's personal comments. The bibliographic details include the scholarly classification of the tale (for example, a Cinderella story is ATU510A), the source from where the Grimms collected the tale, and a list of similar stories (usually comparing the Grimm tale to a similar one found in Briggs's Folk Tales of Britain, Afanasev's Russian Fairy Tales, and Calvino's Italian Folktales). My favourite part was always Pullman's own comments, which were often astute and entertaining.

Several times I was surprised by a tale, and so looked up another translation. Each time I found that Pullman stayed very close to the original, but just used his own very enjoyable writing style. In the odd situation where he changed something, he explains clearly in his comments what exactly he changed and his reasons for doing so.

There are 209 Grimms Fairy Tales. How many can you name? "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel," "Cinderella," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Sleeping Beauty," "Snow White," "Rumpelstiltskin"? Perhaps you also the "Frog Prince" and "the Robber Bridegroom"? That's only nine tales. I have a theory about this--it's because too many of the other tales are either forgettable or ridiculous. Other than these ones that I knew before I opened this book, I'm coming away with only a few new favourites -- "The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage" (which is an awesome story that has had my 17 yr old and I in hysterics several times), "The Juniper Tree," "The Goose Girl," and "Lazy Heinz." Pullman often acknowledges the flaws in some of the more forgettable tales.

Recommended for: Anyone who wants an edition of Grimm that is a pleasure to read. The book is not illustrated though, so I'd say it's for older readers -- say 9 to 99. Also, anyone who thinks a personal library isn't complete without an edition of Grimms Brothers. ( )
2 vote Nickelini | Mar 10, 2014 |
Summary: The stories of the Grimm Brothers are familiar to most of us; they're the basis of our earliest picture books, we've seen the Disney-ified versions of them, we've seen them done and re-done, and we've maybe read the originals (or translations of the originals, more likely). In this book, Pullman gives us a new translation of fifty of the Grimms' stories - some very familiar, some much less so - and provides a little bit of commentary on each, particularly focusing on the role of the storyteller and how the elements of the story work together (or not, on occasion).

Review: I am of two minds about this book. Or maybe three. (Maybe that's a fairy tale in itself: The Girl Who Was of Three Minds.)

On the one hand, I enjoyed reading this book. Fairy tales have a power to them, a rhythm to their stories, that persists, and that makes them classics, that makes them enjoyable and relevant and interesting even after hundreds of years. As Pullman points out in the introduction to this book, they are stories in their barest form: no fancy language, no endless description, no internal monologuing, just action. (This is why I had so many problems with My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me - it was embellishing the hell out of the classic stories, and in trying to be all "literary" about it, largely missed the soul of what a fairy tale was supposed to be.) Anyways, I am a big fan of fairy tales in all of their various incarnations, so obviously this book was going to be fun to read, and it was. I would read story after story, easily getting lost in the world of the Grimm brothers, peopled with deep dark forests and enchanted princesses and noble princes and honest millers and the occasional witch or sorceress (only a few actual fairies, though.)

On the other hand, though, I am a little unclear as to what this book adds to the world of fairy tale literature. These are tellings, not re-tellings; Pullman owns up when he makes "major" changes to a story, but he's clearly sticking fairly close to the Grimms' original source material, at least in intent if not in words. So while he is probably putting his own spin on things, it's very subtle, and not always apparent which bits are new vs. original, and I didn't feel like the storyteller's voice was that much different in this version than in the other translation of these stories I've read. But it's also not an academic work on fairy tales, at all. Each story has a paragraph or two of commentary, but it never really digs into the meat of analysis, so the result isn't entirely satisfying. Essentially, I wanted something more than a straight-up telling of these stories, some new perspective, but that's all that was on offer.

On the third hand, Pullman's a great storyteller, and these stories have stood the test of time on their own merits, so maybe he's right just to step out of their way and let them speak for themselves. I was just hoping for something new, but that's not what was on offer. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Enjoyable, and worth reading if you like fairy tales. And if you're familiar with the stories, but haven't actually read the Brothers Grimm, this would be a great translation to start with. But I feel like there was a missed opportunity here for some more analysis, or a new perspective on these stories, rather than the basic and straight-forward presentation they're given. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Mar 10, 2014 |
I have always loved fairy tales. Even before I could read, they caught my imagination in a way that other stories didn’t and, even as a child, I preferred the pre-Disney stories, the ones in which evil stepsisters were danced to death or locked cupboard contained Bluebeard’s murdered wives. As I grew older, I read them less but they never were far from my heart as I developed the same love for fantasy. And that, of course, led me to Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials. And now with this, his Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, I am brought full-circle back to my first love.

Pullman has adapted fifty of these tales, some familiar like Cinderella and Rapunzel but others like The Boy Who Left Home to Find the Shivers and Hans-My-Hedgehog less so. Although he updates the language to make the tales more accessible to a modern audience and occasionally he adds his own touches to make the stories more cohesive, he never loses the original essence of the tales. Even with the more familiar stories like Cinderella, he takes it back to its origins. Instead of singing mice and fairy godmothers, there is a tree which grows from her mother’s grave.

At the end of each tale, he gives a bit of its history and the titles of other similar stories. But best of all, at least for me, he gives his own short critique of each tale. These critiques are sometimes funny, sometimes snarky but they are always smart and interesting. For anyone who loves fairy tales as much as I do, for the young and young at heart, this is a chance to discover or rediscover some of these wonderful tales. ( )
1 vote lostinalibrary | Jan 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
This collection is issued as a "classic", so it is probably right to aim for a style free of the gothic extravagance of Angela Carter or the contemporary ethics of Jane Yolen or any other highly literary or individual interpretation, but for those who already know the stories this results in a collection which is very good, but not very interesting.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Grimm, Jakobprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grimm, Wilhelmmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Pullman, PhilipEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed

References to this work on external resources.

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Book description
Haiku summary
Splendid retelling
Of fifty of Grimms' classic
And obscure folk tales.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067002497X, Hardcover)

#1 New York Times bestseller Philip Pullman retells the world’s best-loved fairy tales on their 200th anniversary

Two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now Philip Pullman, one of the most accomplished authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Pullman retells his fifty favorites, from much-loved stories like “Cinderella” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “The Three Snake Leaves," "Godfather Death" and "The Girl with No Hands." At  the end of each tale he offers a brief personal commentary, opening a window on the sources of the tales, the various forms they've taken over the centuries and their everlasting appeal.

Suffused with romance and villainy, danger and wit, the Grimms' fairy tales have inspired Pullman's unique creative vision—and his beguiling retellings will draw you back into a world that has long cast a spell on the Western imagination.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:12 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children's and Household Tales. Now Philip Pullman, one of the most accomplished authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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