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Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version Hardcover – November 8, 2012
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*Starred Review* On the 200th anniversay of the first publication of Grimms’ fairy tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), celebrated British author Pullman retells 50 of what he calls “the cream” of the brothers’ 210 tales. Many of his selections are familiar (“Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” etc.), while others (“Mount Simeli,” “The Three Snake-Leaves,” “Lady Heinz,” etc.) are less so. However, what all have in common, in Pullman’s retellings, are a salutary clarity and directness. His style is conversational, simple, and straightforward, without frills and furbelows; but less is more, as Pullman proves by providing a wonderfully rich reading experience. His book is not only stylish in its simplicity but also scholarly. In addition to his elegant introduction, he concludes each tale with his own always interesting commentary and provides, as well, the tale’s type (based on The Types of International Folktales, by Antti Aarne), its source, and a short list of similar stories. There are, of course, any number of English-language versions and editions of Grimm, but few are as felicitous in their telling as Pullman’s. His book surely belongs on the same shelf as the very best of those that appeal to general readers of all ages. --Michael Cart
“Pullman’s Fairy Tales offers something unique: the chance to watch a master storyteller think through these most foundational of tales. . . . It is fascinating.” —The New York Times
“Zippy! . . . These tales are about plot and economy and speed [and] make great bedtime read-alouds for children who can handle a little gore. . . . The original tales weren’t for children, of course; they were for everyone. So is this book. . . . Pullman is both erudite and funny. . . . He has fun with dialogue, and is particularly snappy with dwarfs. . . . You know what? He crushes it, as the youth of today are wont to say. . . . His translations are perfection.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It is such a pleasure to read these tales again, to experience their strangeness and richness, their violence and beauty, their sheer nonsense. . . . Reading Pullman’s version it is impossible not to hear Pullman’s own gentle voice; he is present on every page. . . . [His] interventions work brilliantly.” —The Boston Globe
“These wonder tales . . . compel belief as powerfully as any adventure or thriller.” —Marina Warner, The Times Literary Supplement
“Excellent . . . His beginnings are like invitations that cannot be refused. . . . Pullman shows how completely he understands the Grimms. . . . [He] pays homage to the Brothers’ pioneer work and simultaneously breathes new life into a great, venerable tradition of magical storytelling.” —Jack Zipes, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A real pleasure to read . . . This is the kind of writing that stands up to years of bedtime repetition. . . . The author’s best appearances are in the notes, which are often as entertaining as the stories themselves. . . . Swiftness and clarity, he says, were his guiding principles; to which he has added wit and invention. . . . Beautiful or grotesque, the mad poetry of these tales is often delightfully funny too.” —The Economist
“A fresh, sparkling collection of the finest stories from the Brothers Grimm, hand-picked by an author perfectly suited to the task. This volume is a must-have for any lover of fairy tales. . . . In the hands of a master storyteller such as Pullman, the Grimms’s tales take on a whole new life.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“A wonderfully rich reading experience . . . Stylish in its simplicity [and with] a salutary clarity and directness . . . In addition to his elegant introduction, [Pullman] concludes each tale with his own always interesting commentary. . . . There are, of course, any number of English-language versions and editions of Grimm, but few are as felicitous in their telling as Pullman’s. His book surely belongs on the same shelf as the very best of those that appeal to general readers of all ages.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Readers will enjoy not only returning to European fantasy’s roots but seeing how the tree still blooms. . . . Smooth narration makes every tale accessible while keeping the mystical and lyrical qualities that make fairy tales so beloved.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“You didn’t know you needed to reread Grimm. You do. This is a grand and a great book. With confidence and modesty alike, Pullman adds just enough Pullman to remind us that the oldest stories are always best told by someone who knows how to do the job of storytelling. No grandstanding here, no posturing or poesy-making. Pullman selects familiars and exotics, and gives us the goods anew—the ashes never grittier, the golden shoes never more lively, and the teller’s notes concise, witty, scholarly even. Older Grimms—put them on the top of the bookcase. This one needs to be closer to hand. I read it ravenously, rapturously.”—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation
“I could not imagine a better emissary for the Brothers Grimm than Philip Pullman. His translations have the timeless quality of a voice speaking in a quiet room, at once ancient and immediate to the senses. What a pleasure it is to be reacquainted with these stories in all their swiftness, wonder, horror, and charm.” —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead
“Philip Pullman’s Grimm is quite eloquent, and his commentary is witty and historically accurate. There is no doubt in my mind that the Grimms would have been delighted with what he has accomplished.” —Jack Zipes, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota
“In this pitch-perfect retelling of the Grimms’ fairy tales, Philip Pullman reminds us that the stories have lost none of their relevance or racing energy, even two hundred years after they were written down. As storyteller and sage, he preserves the flavors and aromas of fine, old wines from times past and delivers them to us in sparkling new bottles.” —Maria Tatar, Harvard University; author of The Classic Fairy Tales
“I’ve admired Philip Pullman since his early fantasy Galatea on through the splendid trilogy His Dark Materials. All of his gifts, including his prose eloquence, and his endless high Romantic imagination, are manifested in this marvelous retelling of Grimm.” —Harold Bloom
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Top Customer Reviews
The best part of the footnote to Cinderella,is when Pullman notes that no-one today knows what the name means. Other than it is a beautiful name. Being chronologically disadvantaged, I can remember having to get up early and shake the clinkers and cinders out of the furnace grate; and let new coal in. Present readers are so ignorant of how we used to heat our homes, they never connected the name of Cinderella and the fact in the story she swept out the fireplace and stove. Indeed she slept on the ashes of the fireplace.
I was very excited when I saw that Pullman did a retelling of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, I knew that he would do them justice.
This anthology consists of 50 fairy tales handpicked by Pullman from a larger collection of stories that Brothers Grimm collected.
I must shamefully admit that I liked Pullman's retellings even more than the original. He did not edit out strange and odd parts of the stories but his versions are much easier to read, without archaic language constructs. Also, one thing that I most appreciated, he shortened out sometimes boring repetitious parts.
At the end of each story we have notes where Pullman explains what changes he made to the original story. He even treats us with a little bit of historical background: when it was first published and a list of similar stories and adaptations. These notes were very interesting to me, but if you don't like them you can always skip them with no harm done.
This book has something to offer to everybody. It can be savored a tale a day or devoured in one afternoon. You can read it to your kids before bedtime or you can read it alone.
Whatever pace you set or audience you choose, if you are a lover of classic fairy tales you will definitely enjoy this book.
I recommend this book to: young and old fans of classic fairy tales.
Disclaimer: I was given a free ebook by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. This review is also posted on Goodreads and my blog.
For the Grimm purists this book may be a step too far, but I believe that this wonderful collection of short stories will stand the test of time and regardless of how many times they are reworked, there is a still an element of magic and a kind of innocent wonder to be found in stories where good against evil, weak against strong, natural against supernatural, justice against injustice, all fight for the right to be heard.
Pullman has done a creditable job in maintaining the atmosphere of the stories, and overall his simplified text works well. I found particularly useful his inclusion of explanatory snippets which are found at the end of each tale. I was, however, just a little disappointed, the stories cry out for glorious illustrations and I feel that the lack of something visually stunning lets the book down.
Having now read Pullman's version of the Grimm fairy stories, I am still inclined to err on the side of the original version; however, there is still something quite magical about reading fairy tales to a sleepy child and Pullman's stories are more than up to the task.