Juushika's Reviews > Grimm's Grimmest

Grimm's Grimmest by Jacob Grimm
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's review
Mar 06, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: status-owned, genre-classic, genre-fantasy, genre-short-fiction
Read in October, 2007

This volume collects a number of fairy tales recorded by the brothers Grimm, translated and illustrated to preserve all of the macabre aspects. Murder and mutilation to incest and cannibalism, there is a little bit of everything grotesque in these stories, which range from well-known tales such as Cinderella to lesser known stories such as Hans My Hedgehog. Tatar's short introduction makes up the sole elaboration and explanation of the texts--there is little commentary, little history, and little to put the grotesque elements in perspective. As such, this is a fine introductory text to the Grimm's stories as they originally appeared--the collection isn't huge, but it's large enough for the casual reader, and the illustrations pick out some of the best moments. However, this is not a complete collection and contains no history or commentary, so it may disappoint the reader that is already familiar with the grotesque aspects and/or is looking for a more detailed or more useful text.

Stepping far away from the singing mice and innocent maidens that fill modern conceptions of traditional fairy tales, Grimm's Grimmest presents original Grimm stories, translated into English, presented with illustrated plates (color and black and white), which preserve and even flaunt their more gruesome aspects. A stepmother feeds a murdered child to his father; Cinderella's step sisters cut off their toes to try and fit their feet in the glass slipper; a father cuts off his daughters hands so that she cannot sin. The storytelling is simple and repetitive, the plots and premises are at the same time macabre and magical, and the stories resolve to conclusions that are logical, often vengeful, and not quite happy every after. The story selection is fairly wide, including both famous and lesser known tales, the illustrations are simple and grotesque much in the same way as the stories, and the book certainly delivers the gruesome aspects that it promises.

For the price and the claim, however, this book is little more than a brief introduction to the original Grimm stories. To be fair, there are a decent number of stories in this collection (19, to be precise), but this is a small fraction of the 200-some Grimm fairy tales that the brothers published during their lifetimes. And, although the eight-page introduction is interesting enough, it is limited in scope and depth; without footnotes, individual introductions, or commentary, there is no detailed information on the stories themselves or the Grimm brothers, their collecting and writing process, or the impact of the books or their grotesque elements. It should also go without saying that the stories are translations, not retellings, and so they are short, have repetitive narratives, and forgo characterization and description in favor of the plot. In short, while this is an adequate and brief introduction to the Grimm stories in their original form, but it is not complete, complex, or particularly informational, and readers who are already familiar with the original Grimm stories or who are looking for more detailed information will probably find this collection to be disappointing.

Personally, I appreciate this book for what it is: a short, simple, but entertaining collection of dark and twisted stories. It is a fast, approachable read, the illustrations encourage a bit of lingering on the "best" parts, and both the magical and gruesome aspects make for a good read. But on the whole, what the reader gets from this book will depend on what he wants from it--those looking for a short and simple set of original grim Grimm's stories will enjoy it; those looking for a broader collection, more detail, or an updated storytelling style will probably be disappointed.
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