Tag Archives: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman

Barbara Vey -- February 6th, 2013


Hi There. joysann here.

As a rule I don’t watch much television on a regular basis, so when my friends start talking about popular TV programs, I only vaguely know what they’re talking about. I do get interested, though, when they enthusiastically profess to enjoy them. If a series does sound interesting to me, I’ll pick up the DVD at the library when it comes out and indulge for several days in a row, if I find I like it.

Recently I got the first season of both Grimm and Once Upon a Time, which was a fun way to endure some of the cold winter evenings this January. I liked both shows, and enjoyed the clever ways the bedtime stories we’ve heard all our lives have been mixed in with modern police mysteries. It was fun to see if my husband or I could guess the character before it was revealed. We do pretty well. But occasionally there’ll be a story with which I’m not familiar, and that’s vaguely unsettling because it seems like I should know all of them after all these years.

Fortunately, this year award-winning, best-selling author Philip Pullman celebrated the 200th anniversary of an original compilation by publishing Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, and I’m finding it fascinating. As you may know, Pullman is the author of the very popular His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass). The original fairy stories by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm was titled Children’s and Household Tales. Pullman’s collection is a re-telling of fifty of those stories for modern readers (not modernized), with his observations on the story’s origin, or comparisons to stories from other cultures, or the intent behind them. His commentaries are as enlightening and interesting as the tales themselves.

One thing I’ve been reminded of is that not all fairy tales are Happily-Ever-Afters. Some stories are very dark, or rather gruesome, and Pullman doesn’t attempt to make them prettier. Many are not at all what I think of as children’s stories. (Shiver!!!)

As expected Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel, and Rumpelstiltskin get their moments in Pullman’s sun, but so do characters you may have never known, or some you’ll enjoy meeting again. Pullman himself says this is not a text book, but I feel that a huge hole in my cultural knowledge is more satisfactorily filled.

Bottom Line: While enjoying the explosion of fairy tales on TV and big screen with many of our favorite actors and actresses, as well as theĀ animated Disney productions, it’s fun to take a few minutes to find out how the real nitty-gritty stories go.