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Review of Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman

by - August 31, 2014

Format: Paperback
Genres: Fairytales, Childrens, Short Stories,
Pages: 444
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: 05/09/2013
Find The Author: Website ¦ Twitter
Abe Books ¦ Book Depository ¦ Goodreads

In this beautiful book of classic fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and presents them in a 'clear as water' retelling, in his unique and brilliant voice.

From the quests and romance of classics such as 'Rapunzel', 'Snow White' and 'Cinderella' to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as 'The Three Snake Leaves', 'Hans-my-Hedgehog' and 'Godfather Death', Pullman brings the heart of each timeless tale to the fore, following with a brief but fascinating commentary on the story's background and history. In his introduction, he discusses how these stories have lasted so long, and become part of our collective storytelling imagination.

These new versions show the adventures at their most lucid and engaging yet. Pullman's Grimm Tales of wicked wives, brave children and villainous kings will have you reading, reading aloud and rereading them for many years to come.

I literally grew up with fairy tales old and new, from the Grimm Brothers themselves to Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter. I haven't read Grimm's Tales for many years now, and this book really brought me back to when I'd happily sit reading them over and over. This is an updated version of the tales but it's still the same tales we know and love, from the classics like Rapunzel to unusual ones like Thousandfurs.

It's not the prettiest edition, although I love the cover. There's no illustrations. The best edition in my opinion is The Annotated Classic Fairytales, but this book does it's job. Philip Pullman adds his own little notes at the end of each story and gives us a little information about the history of the story. He's clearly done a lot of research although he does ramble on a bit sometimes.

I picked up a few new favourites too, in particular Thousandfurs, the very strange tale of a Princess who runs away from her pedophilic father and becomes a poor maid in a castle. Then, in Grimm fashion, she wins the Princes heart by putting her jewellery in his soup and making it taste better. Another odd one that I loved is Hans-my-Hedgehog, about a half hedgehog man who lives and a tree and keeps pigs.

I often noticed the religious undertones, which I hasn't noticed as a child. In some stories, it's all about being faithful. I'm glad Philip kept that in, even though he didn't seem to agree with it. He also keeps the violence and weirdness that is Grimm - Rumpelstiltskin tearing himself into two, a sister so outraged she hangs herself - tales we would never see in a children's book nowadays.

Overall, I think this book is a great addition to my shelf and one I will keep for a long time - while I love the Annotated Tales, it's far too big for my shelf and only contains 26 of the tales, less than half than this book. I would love to see Pullman take on some other fairy tales like Charles Perrault's Bluebeard, that has always been a firm favourite of mine.

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  1. I loved fairytales as a child too, it's funny how most of them nowadays would raise eyebrows with including violence and some even mature themes. I don't know whether it's because we're all too politically correct now, or children are sheltered and not exposed to the older classics. It sounds more like a modern take on the old classics, but I'm not sure I'd want his little fact and opinions after each one, I think by the tenth story, that would start to get old pretty quickly. Sad that it doesn't have any illustrations, but perfect for casual reading and not having to lug round bulky editions. Awesome review Vickie, I'm going to grab a copy an an online Aussie bookshop <3


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