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Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version

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Two hundred years ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now, at a veritable fairy-tale moment—witness the popular television shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time and this year’s two movie adaptations of “Snow White”—Philip Pullman, one of the most popular authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.

From much-loved stories like “Cinderella” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “Briar-Rose,” “Thousandfurs,” and “The Girl with No Hands,” Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.

405 pages, Hardcover

First published September 27, 2012

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About the author

Philip Pullman

315 books23.3k followers
As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means.

The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader's mind. So when people ask me what I meant by this story, or what was the message I was trying to convey in that one, I have to explain that I'm not going to explain.

Anyway, I'm not in the message business; I'm in the "Once upon a time" business.

Philip Pullman is best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, which has been named one of the top 100 novels of all time by Newsweek and one of the all-time greatest novels by Entertainment Weekly. In 2004, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,178 reviews
Profile Image for Maciek.
562 reviews3,315 followers
October 13, 2021
The mountain and the valley never meet, but the children of men, both good and bad, met one another all the time.

-The Two Travelling Companions

I grew up with fairy tales: first my mom read them to me when I was still too little to do so myself, and then I took the big volumes in my own little hands and laboriously pored over each page, living among the princes and princesses, in worls where there were still giants and everybody paid attention to not mess up with witches, death itself walked the road, ponds were full of pixies and forests full of dangers and wonders. The whole world seemed to just wait to be explored, and adventure was just around the corner.

The devotion of the Brothers Grimm to collecting tales basically shaped the Western childhood: who is not aware of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel or Rapunzel? Or Snow White, the great tale about envy which has been adapted by Walt Disney into his famous animated film? Surely everybody knows about the Little Red Riding Hood, whom Charles Dickens called his first love and said that if he could have married her he would have known perfect bliss.

Philip Pullman is a marvelous storyteller, known best for his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. He has also written delightful stories for children, such as The Scarecrow and his Servant, which is a delightful pastiche of Don Quixote about a scarecrow that comes to life after being struck by lightning, and embarks on adventure with a young village boy who he takes as his servant. His stories are delightful and intelligent, full of wit and charm and also respect for the intellect of children, which is something many fail to acknowledge.

In Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, or if you prefer, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, Philip Pullman has selected 50 tales from the Grimm's wide catalogue and simply told them again, stripping them from their often anachronistic syntax and vocabulary, writing elegant prose and making the tales flow fluidly for the contemporary reader. He provides a short introductory essay, where he discusses the nature of the fairytale - it's frenetic pace which is achieved by most formulaic characterization and setting, both factors a significant drawback in most of contemporary fiction but not the fairytale, where they are more than welcome as they allow for the story to be adopted by various cultures and in various languages all across Europe, the continent which was once full of kings and queens, castles and forests, withches and fairies.

Pullman points out the oral nature of storytelling when it comes to fairytales: there is no need to venerate the text. As opposed to poetry, prose and drama, which originate as text and where the content is set in stone and the reader cannot change it in any way (that priviledge is reserved for the author alone), with fairytales there is no need to venerate the text - as there was no text in the first place
- the tale depended on its teller who was free to change the story in a way they think appropriate, developing it and passing it along. Think of it as a telephone game - only one which went down in history and reached us. After each tale Pullman provides a short afterword, listing the tale type according to the Aarne–Thompson tale type index, lists the Grimm's source for the story and provides a list of similar fairytales in European folklore, naming the anthologies where they can be found. He writes a short note about each story, shedding light on their content with interesting commentary. These notes are brief but just as interesting as the stories, and in the case of Thousandfurs Pullman has presented his idea for a great alternative conclusion - but one much too dark for young children!

And what about the stories? These stories are the stories we know and know well, and which have raised generations. These tales taught children important lessons: that the stronger does not always intend to keep their side of the bargain, as the mouse learned from the cat: that the woods are lovely, but dark and deep, and one should pay attention to each step; that strangers should be approached with caution, and that one's life is very easy to lose. But with all their grimness, violence and bloshed - I forgot how violent these stories are; so many people die and so much blood is shed, it's almost campy - these stories have a very positive message: that some people will repay kindness with kindness, that the neglected and abused girl will get the prince, and that life if worth living because we never know what adventure awaits us. As Bilbo Baggins said, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to". And the road goes ever on.

It was a delight to read these stories again, and I will certainly return to them in the future. As Stephen King once wrote, it is the tale, not he who tells it - but this telling is very pleasant and I'm glad to have read it. However, I am amazed at the absolute lack of illustrations in this volume - not even one! This is a book which should contain at least one illustration for each tale - Pullman's other works for children are all illustrated, which adds even more charm to them. However, in this case the publisher completely missed out and chose to not include what I consider to be an important element of a book this type. It does not hurt the reading, but I would love to see these tales complimented by a good illustrator.
Profile Image for Flor ♡.
219 reviews57 followers
May 16, 2018
Al fin después de meses y meses he terminado este libro. 💪🏻

No me demoré tanto porque fuera aburrido,sino porque cada cuento lo fui intercalando con otras lecturas. Y eso que son casi 60!! 😱

Me ha gustado mucho, sobre todo porque están narrados como fueron creados en un principio y no tienen los cambios que han ido sufriendo con el paso del tiempo.
Además el autor se ha tomado el trabajo de buscar el origen de cada uno, y ha citado al final de cada cuento una breve explicación. 👏🏼

Mis preferidos fueron:

❤️Hermanito y hermanita
❤️Hansel y Gretel
❤️El pescador y su esposa
❤️El sastrecillo valiente
❤️Los tres pelos de oro del diablo
❤️Los duendes
❤️La bella durmiente
❤️Piel de oro
❤️Los zapatos que se rompieron de tanto bailar
❤️El monte Simeli

Se lo recomiendo a todo aquel que quiera rememorar su infancia o conocer más sobre aquellas historias que nos contaron de pequeños.

Profile Image for Trish.
1,934 reviews3,404 followers
October 9, 2017

These two brothers are solely responsible for most of the world knowing a number of fairy tales. Their names: Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, two Germans. They were neither the first nor the last to collect stories, slightly adapt and publish them as a collection. However, for some reason, their changes managed to enchant people and before long, theirs were THE Hausmärchen to have and know.

Philip Pullman is himself an accomplished author who has apparently been heavily influenced by classic fairy tales and seems delighted about their comeback that has taken place lately.

This collection, then, contains 53 fairy tales; the 53 fairy tales Philip Pullman supposedly loves the most, which have influenced him and his writing the most, and which he thought were most representative for certain styles and eras and messages to be conveyed.

A little bit of a recap first of all:
I grew up in a family where nobody reads. Thus, I was never told about children's classics or books that meant a lot to one relative or another. But I was lucky in that my great-grandmother often told me old tales of cursed princes and enchanted princesses, talking animals, wicked witches and cunning devils. At one point, my grandmother forbade it as it wasn't "proper" but the damage was done - magic had entered my life. My favourites, that I remember to this day, were The Goose Girl and Three Little Men In The Woods and The Golden Bird. There are others that left a lasting impression as well but there are so many that I cannot possibly talk about them all.

The same can be said about this collection: too many to name them all but they had the wonderful effect of bringing back my childhood. Not the Disney version either but the old and almost untamed versions of the fairy tales, as dark and bloody as they were. And they are a nice mixture of the typical and most famous ones and pretty unheard of ones as well. There is a certain atmosphere around them despite the fact that Pullman changed the fairy tales a little - according to the author, that is the way fairy tales were meant to be told anyway: each with a little personal bit of the teller thrown in (unlike stories from novels).

Naturally, many stories are quite silly what with people first doing all manner of things to get children but then treating them abominally; or people always being good-looking and therefore virtuous. Many of the tales also have similarities or even merged over time. Pullman often points out the interesting fact that many of the tales seem to be missing something structurally; making suggestions for how the stories should have been fleshed out. It's not a surprise that some stories seem to be missing some structure as these were originally told orally. Therefore, I especially like that after each tale, Pullman writes a note, explaining the origins of the respective tale, the way it is structured and other information.

I must say that the audio version really brought these stories to live. Probably because they were always meant to be passed on orally. The narrator is fantastic with different accents and has an impeccable sense for how to present them. However, the audio version does not have the aforementioned additional author's notes which is why I got the printed version as well.

This book offers a slightly more modern collection of some of the most influential and important fairy tales the Brothers Grimm brought to the world and despite me being a traditionalist when it comes to stories, I liked the changes Pullman had made as they were delicate and tasteful and I think this is a wonderful alternative to the classic collection (many don't have a copy of the Hausmärchen in the house anymore, saying they are too "old(fashioned)" so it's about time their printed version became more popular again).

Profile Image for Kyoko SWords.
189 reviews1,487 followers
January 12, 2016
Reseña completa aquí: http://tinyurl.com/h5qhgpr
5 de 5 estrellas ♡
Este libro es una joya que efectivamente es para todas las edades; a pesar de todo lo crudos que puedan ser algunos cuentos, otros son perfectos para los más pequeños.
Ratifico que, de lejos, los cuentos fantásticos de los hermanos Grimm son mi universo literario favorito: los príncipes, brujas, maleficios, caballeros y princesas son mi debilidad.
Pullman nos da la posibilidad de no sólo disfrutar de la tradición original de los cuentos, también nos regala la oportunidad de entender nuevos aspectos de su recopilación.
Son más de 40 cuentos fascinantes que releeré hastaque me muera.
Otro libro de la colección semilla del ministerio cultura que debo recomendar, hasta ahora voy muy bien con esta colección.
El único pero que le pongo al libro es que uno de mis cuentos favoritos no aparece :( de resto el libro ha sido una forma perfecta para empezar mi 2016.
Profile Image for Matthew Rhodes.
3 reviews3 followers
January 27, 2013
This is an odd one.

I love Philip Pullman yet I'm not a fan of any Grimm Tale I have read prior to this book. I give this a low rating mainly because it was painfully hard work to read this book at any great pace. Grimm tales are so formulaic, they sometimes don't feel like real stories. Every woman in every story is either so astonishingly beautiful that it could bring a statue to tears or is a witch/evil on epic proportions/monstrously ugly. There's a forest. There's always a fucking forest. Kings and princes are always 'just happening to be wandering around'. The good men are always very clearly good men. The bad men are always very clearly bad men. There is no room for debate. The good man always lives happily ever after and gets married at the end. The bad men/women always drown in a barrel of nails/have their balls and eyes ripped out at the end.

The problem is its hard work to read fifty short tales that ALWAYS follow this exact formula. Its more like writing a maths equation than a story. It's just, well...boring. There's no other word for it. I could never willingly read this book again.

The other problem with it (which is more my fault as I hadn't looked into the details of this release properly) is Pullman's contribution. When I asked for this book for Christmas it was because I expected Pullman's own versions of the Grimm Tales. There is surprisingly little input from Pullman though and I think this was the main disappointment I had with the book and what put me off it. The main input from him comes in the short commentaries that he writes after each tale. Some of them are quite funny and insightful. Most are just of mild interest though.

I've not given this one star though because it does have at least some redeeming features which kept me going. Every once in a while you do get a Grimm tale which is actually quite interesting. 'The Fisherman and his Wife' is an excellent little story. The tale (can't remember the name of it unfortunately) that features Death getting stuck up a tree for seven years really made me laugh because the ridiculous circumstances are told in such a casual manner. Also, 'Hans-My -Hedgehog' deserves praise for being a Grimm Tale which features a half-man/half-hedgehog that plays bagpipes up a tree for several years whilst looking after some pigs as its main character. More books should have characters like this one.

Conclusion: disappointing. I wish Pullman had not fannied about with this when he could be getting round to finally finishing The Book of Dust.
Profile Image for Trudie.
526 reviews560 followers
August 25, 2017
I came to this edition of Grimm purely as an accompaniment to Shaun Tan's The Singing Bones a wonderful book of sculptures that illustrate these tales. I must admit to initially being more inspired by the illustrated history of Grimm fairy tales than the fairy tales themselves. However, Philip Pullman has done a nice job collating and "sprucing up" 50 of these stories.

I guess your position on his stylistic choices may depend on how much of a Grimm scholar you are. A brief comparison of several stories tells me that Pullman stays faithful to the original tales. These are not "retellings" or modernised versions but rather the best version of each tale selected from the many translations and regional variants and in some cases given a slight tweak to make them flow and clear up odd narrative loose ends. From my point of view this was successful as these tales bounced along and seemed quite lively. I enjoyed Pullmans often amusing analysis at the end of each tale, considering what worked and how he might have made further improvements. I also learnt there is such a thing as the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index. The book certainly gives you lots of suggestions for jumping off into further variants or more scholarly analysis if thats your thing.

I found I appreciated this book best by dipping in and out of it over a few months, a method I recommend to avoid fairy tale overload. Reading too many tales in a sitting it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the poor woman cast as crones, beautiful marriageable princess's or evil stepmothers. You also quickly learn that collecting one magic golden bird or devils hair will not be enough as everything comes in sets of three.

In summary, a good introduction to original folk tales complete with gore and dark turns, narrative leaps and surprisingly funny and relatable moments from stories that are over 200 years old.
Profile Image for Audrey.
371 reviews88 followers
September 19, 2012
I grew up loving fairy tales, especially those by the Brothers Grimm. I had them narrated on records, and I’d sit or lay on the carpet and just listen and let my imagination take me away. I took the stories at face value, and never questioned how odd they are, or why things happen in them the way they do. It was just how it was.

Now, as an adult, it’s wonderful to be able to get reacquainted with the stories, and to read some I’d never heard of before. In this new translation and version, Philip Pullman has selected 50 of the stories and presents them once again. He doesn’t embellish much, but tries to find the best version of each tale from the many editions the Grimm brothers published. At the end of each story, Pullman gives bibliographical references for similar stories that appear in sources like Mother Goose, Italo Calvino, and the Arabian Nights, among others. When available, Pullman also tells us where the brothers first heard the tale, and from whom. It’s a fantastic starting point for those looking for references to related sources.

As straightforward as the stories are, Pullman still gives us his own thoughts about them at the end, and choices he would make if he were to change them. For example, in his version of Rapunzel he has Rapunzel complain of her clothes being too tight, revealing to the witch that she is pregnant, rather than the alternative of Rapunzel stupidly asking the witch why she is heavier to pull up than the prince. Pullman argues that his way keeps Rapunzel completely innocent and worthy of her eventual redemption. Pullman also wrote a fantastic introduction to the volume, giving intelligent analysis of why and how fairy tales work.

This is a beautiful book of well-loved stories, and Pullman’s own writing makes it worthwhile to anyone who is interested in folklore, storytelling, and the sources of our common narrative standards.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
799 reviews851 followers
February 11, 2013
Started so strong I thought I'd burn through these but things fell off a bit a third into it, or maybe I just got too used to the transparent language, the patient anonymous tone, the ever-present series of threes, the same ol' motifs. Courage, bravery, goodness, cleverness are rewarded with gold, princesses, and living happily ever after. Greed and evil are often punished by decapitation! Loved it when ultraviolent and weird, or when birds and fish talked, but sometimes the words blended and kept me out and so I skimmed a few, particularly toward the end. Great also to read the pre-Disneyfied renditions of Cinderella, Snow White, and others (hey now Hansel and Gretel!). Pullman's post-story notes for each tale seemed casual (sometimes even sort of half-assed) but nevertheless mostly adequately informative and insightful. Worth reading and returning to ("The Juniper Tree," a story I've never read or heard before, is positioned as the centerpiece/masterpiece). Suggests how much there's to know about the foundational fairy and folk tales of the world.
Profile Image for Jim Ef.
310 reviews59 followers
September 9, 2021

I knew that the original Grimms tales were a lot darker than the ones that we have been told as little kids... And boy,oh boy are they. These tales (some of them)are great if you are looking something spooky to read at night.
I must say that i do not recommend to read that to your child.
Profile Image for Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont.
113 reviews636 followers
September 23, 2012
Not Just So

I have my favourites just as I am sure you have yours, those tales, told in childhood, which have a lifelong resonance. My grandfather was a particularly good story-teller, both in fact and in fiction, meaning that he could tell true stories and tall stories with equal verve and conviction!

Those I liked best he told me time and time again. I loved them, so much so that I would not tolerate any deviation. Like Josephine, Rudyard Kipling’s lost daughter, for me the tales of a grandfather had to be ‘just so.’ He was my best beloved; they were my best beloved.

It was this ‘just so’ attitude that came increasingly to mind as I worked my way through Philip Pullman’s recently published Grimm Tales for Young and Old in a New English Version. I enjoyed it…up to a point, though I have to say more for his approach than for his telling. Hold on a moment or two. I promise to become a little less cryptic!

The Grimm Tales, which I also know from childhood, are likewise in the ‘just so’ category of narration. When I was learning German, getting to the stage just beyond the foothills of grammar and parsing, it was to the Grimm Brothers I turned, those beautiful, simple stories in beautiful and limpid prose, as clear as glass. Even in another language they were just as I remembered, though perhaps a little darker, a shade or two grimmer.

What I love about them most of all is their child-like simplicity, though these peasant folk tales were not devised for children. The point is, I think, that the outlook of an older, rural and less complicated world is not that far removed from the outlook of children. There are no shades of grey. Good is good and bad is bad. And the really bad are made to dance to death on red hot iron slippers. Quite right!

It’s a world of bright light and sinister shadows, of handsome princes and ugly witches, of forests and of towers, a wonderful, wonderful enchanted realm. The imagery is simple and stark, the psychology non-existent. Things are as they should be, as red as blood or as white as snow. It’s a pre-Christian world, a pagan world, a world where justice comes as retribution and revenge.

It needs no explanation; the tales contain their own morals and their own simple truths. There is no need for metaphysics and metatheory; all judgement, all adult preconceptions, have to be abandoned. The paradox here is that Pullman’s theory that is not a theory for me was the best part of the whole book!

Now I open my copy at his introduction. Here I see one passage, heavily underlined, an expression of my papal imprimatur. Pullman says he is not interested in the “ponderous interpretations” to which the tales have been subjected. He is not interested in the “…Freudian, Jungian, Christian, Marxist, structuralist, post-structuralist, feminist, post-modernist and every other kind of tendency.”

Spot on! I have no time for all of this sub-Jungian twaddle either. The point is that this entire ponderous explanatory superstructure is not just so; this is just so much extraneous rubbish; this is the tendentious uses of enchantment school. Pullman believes that most of the interpretations offered are little more than seeing pleasant patterns in the sparks of a fire, doing no harm. Well, perhaps, though for me much of the over-intellectualising is little better than a verbal form of the Emperor’s new clothes. There is simply nothing there.

Pullman is interested in the stories as stories. Yes, yes; that is how it should be. He came to my bedside. I lie down, tucked-in, cosy and warm, under my duvet, waiting once again to be thrilled, charmed and beguiled. They are mostly there, the familiar like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood – a particular favourite -, along with the less familiar like Gambling Hans and Godfather Death.

But, please, hold on: this is not quite right; this is not just so. It’s clever, yes, but cleverness is not what I want. The author has taken the tales at face value, part of an oral tradition, subject to change, variation and retelling over time. The Grimms were guilty, if that is the word, of their own adaptations, which took a more gentrified form in their later collections. Now Pullman has his spin, his retelling.

But I want familiarity, I want to take the paths I remember; I do not want innovation, no matter how clever the story teller. I can’t say to Pullman, stop: I want it like this, not like that. I can’t say that’s not what happened. What works well for you does not work well for me. That is the biggest disappointment of this book – there is simply too much Pullman. The materials are beautifully dark enough without his over-voice and polish.
910 reviews256 followers
October 9, 2013
Pullman strips the traditional fairytales right back to their core. This was a lovely read, and the little pieces at the end of each tale, where the author gives a little information about the original tale and any changes he may or may not have made, gives real context to the stories, making them even more interesting.
Profile Image for Paige.
559 reviews122 followers
December 31, 2012
3 1/2 stars.

I was so excited when I saw this. I love fairy tales (especially fairy tale retellings!!), and I am a fan of Philip Pullman's work, so I thought that this would be totally awesome.

As it is, these are not retellings of Grimms' fairy tales, they're just...tellings. He basically copy & pasted 50 Grimm tales and then added a couple paragraphs' commentary at the end of each. Occasionally he says something interesting, but mostly you could do without it. I recently recovered my edition of the fairy tales at my mom's house, so I had them side by side for comparison. Sometimes I like the handful of word changes that Pullman makes better, but often I liked the "original" just as much or better. Like in the bird, mouse & sausage one, my edition of the complete tales says that the bird is sad after the sausage is eaten, and Pullman's version doesn't. I think it's better with the sausage being sad.

It's getting the rating it does because these were advertised as "retellings," when they are really no such thing, and Pullman isn't really clear why he selected the ones he did. In my opinion his commentary didn't really add much, and in one case, it was just weird: he detailed a Jungian analysis of a fairy tale that sounded quite interesting, before dismissing it as "twaddle" and saying it's just a coincidence that this fairy tale fits a formula and it's better without thinking about all that stuff anyway. I was like, "O...kay?" I know hardly anything about Jung so I don't really feel fit to say if it's twaddle or not, but finding patterns and going through the psychology of things is, to me, actually fun. To dismiss psychological analysis or symbolic imagery of fairy tales because "they're fairy tales" seems like things are kind of being sold short.

If you're interested in this, you're probably just better off rereading the Grimms' collection itself, or getting some illustrated stories out of the library and enjoying the artwork, which would probably be more enjoyable than the author's commentary.
Profile Image for Mikaela Garcia.
682 reviews54 followers
March 23, 2020
I can recommend reading this every winter. It has the perfect feeling for the night and it's always great to read classic fairy tales. Philip Pullman did a great job to research Brothers Grimms tales and I like that I also write so grown-up can read it to.
Profile Image for Jason Pettus.
Author 18 books1,279 followers
December 4, 2012
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this review, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

So here was a quick read I couldn't pass up when randomly coming across it at my neighborhood library the other day -- a new compilation of around 50 classic Grimm Brothers fairytales (some famous but most obscure), done for the 200th anniversary of these tales' first publications, edited and sometimes slightly altered by popular "Narnia for atheists" children's author Philip Pullman. "But wait," I hear you saying. "The Grimm Brothers tales are only two hundred years old?" And that of course is part of the problem with supposed "objective" history, and why such new collections are always occasionally welcome; because although the folk tales being told date all the way back to Europe's Middle Ages, the Grimms themselves were modern businessmen who lived in the Victorian Age, and simply the first people who ever thought of actually collecting up all these oral stories and finally committing them to paper, who even just two hundred years later many of us mistakenly conflate with the fictional "Mother Goose" and believe to be the actual Medieval authors of the tales themselves. And as Pullman explains in his illuminating introduction, this is why he too felt free to change some of the details in these stories for this new anthology, because this is exactly what the Grimms did as well, slightly altering the tales from one edition of their massive compendium to the next over the decades in order to better fit the changing morality that occurred over the course of the 19th century; and in fact one of the most interesting things about this book is that Pullman not only compares the various Grimm editions in his smart notes ending each story, but also compares them to the other compilers of fairytales in non-English countries that were going on at the same time, showing that in reality these stories represent a pan-European outlook that influenced the entire continent equally from the years 1000 to 1500, when the invention of movable type finally started bringing definitive linguistic and thus cultural barriers to the geographic lines separating these countries. In fact, about the only "problem" with this book is simply that this research and Pullman's notes tend to be more interesting than the stories themselves -- this is no McGuiresque modern re-imagining of the fairytales, but simply a stripped-down retelling of them, so as such will contain no real surprises to those already familiar with the stories. But that said, for those who have never actually read them before, this makes for a great introduction to the subject, a quickly paced and always interesting volume that most people will be able to finish in full in just a day or two.

Out of 10: 8.5
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
December 4, 2012
I am a fairytale geek. I am crazy about them and have been since I was a wee child. I keep various anthologies on my shelf, including the complete Grimm, some Russian tales, and Jack Zipes' fantastic French fairy tale translations. When I heard Philip Pullman was coming out with a collection, I knew I needed it.

FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM: A New English Version lives up to my expectations. The selected tales cover both the extremely popular ("Cinderella") and the obscure ("The Stolen Pennies"). Thus reading the anthology straight through is a mix of rediscovering old favorites and being surprised by stories you don't really remember (or have never read before). I will admit to skipping around rather than following Pullman's order, but I think FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM works either way. And I was definitely keeping track of which stories would be best to read aloud to the niece and nephew.

Pullman doesn't pull back from the stories' gorier moments and doesn't cut earthier references, but he doesn't play them up either. People might be thrown in barrels full of nails and rolled into the sea, but there's no visceral descriptions of violence. The sexual references tend to be symbolic and nothing that will cause any kiddies to ask strange questions about the birds and the bees. Basically, I think these retellings will work for kids and adults, which is fitting for fairytales.

I loved the brief notes at the end of each story. He includes the attribution of the stories and rightfully adds to the Grimm brothers' praise of the talented Dorothea Viehmann. It's nice to see her contribution extensively praised in a major collection. Pullman explains in a few paragraphs why he chose to include certain episodes, or why he thought certain phrases were the best translation for the story. I generally feel like he accomplished the goal he laid out in the Introduction: to tell these fairy tales with a focus on story. The only time I was thrown out of a tale was when he used the phrase "weapon of mass destruction" which felt far too modern to me.

Fans of fairytales can safely flock to FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Pullman is an incredible author who I usually think of as detailed and somewhat convoluted. But in this collection he restrains himself and tells the fairytales in a concise manner, keeping his language simple instead of overwhelming these familiar stories with his distinctive voice. But that isn't to say the tales are plain - Pullman has a knack for a memorable turn of phrase.

Basically, FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM is everything I'd hoped it would be. It's difficult for me to be objective about fairytales, so I'd've been very disappointed if this collection wasn't any good. And I think it's terrific.
Profile Image for Justine.
465 reviews297 followers
January 20, 2020
A lovely collection of Grimm fairy tales in their original and murdery glory. Not a huge amount to say about this book except that I enjoyed revisiting familiar tales and reading some new ones! An excellent collection.
Profile Image for Leah.
1,388 reviews210 followers
March 6, 2013
Fine, but who is this book for?

Pullman's versions of some of the Grimms’ folk stories are well enough written and his little summaries at the end of each tale gives a bit of background to where each story originated and the different versions that have been told in the past. But from the moment I received the book and discovered that, to my amazement, there are no illustrations, I couldn't help but wonder - who exactly is this book for?

Pullman has updated the language but not the stories so we have dreadful clashes like princesses in castles talking about weapons of mass destruction or giants saying 'Respect!'. This kind of pantomime humour made me think the books must be aimed at a young audience but then where are those missing illustrations? I also couldn't help feeling that with language like this Pullman's versions will date much more quickly than those I read in my childhood. Also Pullman has deliberately gone back to the unbowdlerised versions of many of the stories and I'm not sure that I'd be happy to be reading some of these to my (mythical) young children. Rapunzel getting pregnant without really understanding what was happening to her? Houses described as being as filthy as 'pisspots'? Must be for a teenage or adult audience then? But if so, what do these versions add to the ones we all read when we were young? For me, the answer to that question was nothing much, I'm afraid.

In the end I came to the conclusion that the book is in fact aimed at a very specific target audience - Pullman fans. I doubt this will gain him many new ones, nor is it intriguing or different enough to draw in many fans of folk tales. Not a bad book, exactly, but I doubt it will challenge the classic versions of Grimms’ that are already out there.

An interesting note – when first published in the UK this book was titled 'Grimm Tales: For Young and Old'. I see that the title has been changed for the US version to 'Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version'. I wonder if that has been because of the somewhat lukewarm reception the lack of illustrations and unbowdlerised language caused this book to have amongst many reviewers in Britain? Or perhaps the US publishers actually read it before publishing...

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.
Profile Image for Melcat.
250 reviews25 followers
June 16, 2021
A retelling of fifty fairy tales from the Grimm brothers by Philip Pullman. Some are famous some are not (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood…)

It was alright but not very exciting, and I loved this tales when I was younger. I guess I found that the writing lacked a little bit of poetry as the retelling is extremely straight to the point and can seem a bit dull.

I wish there was more in-dept commentaries or anecdotes from Pullman as well ! Otherwise a quite complete collection to come back to.
Profile Image for Lisa.
423 reviews12 followers
November 13, 2012
Fairy tales remind me of that game telephone. The one where a person starts off saying something and as that phrase gets passed from person to person it changes until when the final person says it out loud it is nothing like the original. I feel that this happens quite often with fairy tales. There are so many variations for each tale with every author or storyteller throwing in their own twist.

Philip Pullman takes a slightly different approach. He has researched many of these tales from different sources and their origins. Then he retells them only changing small parts that he feels makes the story flow better. The one thing that is really interesting about this rendition is at the end of every tale there is information not only about the original source and other versions of the story, but Pullman himself adds notes after each tale about changes in the variations or other significant information. I think this added to the volume immensely. It gave me a different view on many of these tales and had me thinking past the story into it's elements. It was very entertaining and informational so note only did I enjoy the story I also felt like I was learning something.

Fairy tales themselves are far from unique, but at the same time there is something satisfying about reading a different version of them. I loved seeing how the tales I've grown up with (and had a great bias to thanks to Disney) have changed and transformed into a completely new tale with common features but enough differences to entice the readers. There were also many tales I had not heard before that were present in this volume giving a fresh perspective every now and again.

Fairy Tales from The Brothers Grimm was a very enjoyable read and one I see myself going back to often; not necessarily as a whole, but to pick and choose which stories I want to relive depending on my mood.
Profile Image for itchy.
1,700 reviews26 followers
August 19, 2020
mein gott!:
p310: At the bottom Hans found a door, and when he opened it the first thing that met his eyes was a maiden so lovely she seemed like a picture come alive. She was chained to the wall, and her expression was full of disgust and despair, because standing on a chair right next to her was the little man, leering and stroking her hair and her cheeks with his horny little fingers.

I like Gambling Hans best.
Profile Image for Janean.
50 reviews3 followers
January 6, 2020
This was an enjoyable set of tales that Pullman had not only selected, but researched similar story versions from other European countries, particularly from their own folklore. This book is over 400 pages but extremely manageable due to the short nature of the stories. It is very infrequent that a single story will span more than 10-12 pages. This makes it a book that you can easily put down and pick back up again without having to worry about missing or forgetting any bits.

I don’t generally read introductions or afterwords (this book doesn’t have an afterword or author’s note), but I found that the introduction was informative in letting me know how and why this book came together, including a brief background of the Grimm Brothers themselves, and the environment they lived in that gave way to the creation of their book(s) of tales. In essence, Pullman took the tales from the Grimm brothers’ collections that he liked best, or fit a certain theme, and only added small bits (and in some cases even less) to the story to make them a bit clearer. But, as Pullman writes in his introduction, “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.” So you know for certain you will not be inundated with meaningless drivel in these stories, and anything which is added is merely to make the story more clear or to improve pacing.

Perhaps my most favourite part of this book, however, is that after the tales Pullman includes a categorical classification of the tale (not of interest to me, but interesting in and of itself because such a categorical system exists), a collection of similar tales found in other folklore, but, definitely my favourite part of all, is when Pullman adds his own thoughts on the story— from commenting on the story, characters, and motives, to giving us peeks into his creative mind to see how we would turn a story a different way or how he would lengthen one of the stories into a novel, I was not sure what to expect from this book but it was a delight in so many ways!
Profile Image for Hafsa Sabira.
224 reviews46 followers
September 4, 2017
Everyone likes fairytales but in my case it was almost an obsession while growing up. I liked to search for books that had fairytales from different parts of the world and as a part of this scavange I was familiar with Grimm's fairytales from long ago. This book was more like a review of my previous knowledge with the inclusion of additional info.

What I liked about the book was that it has a separate section after each story (with a total of 50 stories) where the writer mentions the source of the stories, other variations, the names of the narrators and the different books they are found. This was very much informative.

The negative part was the length of the stories. Some were annoyingly long without any reason. Some were strangely short. Grimm's stories are usually short and I never really liked all the stories. But it seemed like some of the stories end even before the character development. Some stories were like moral stories,some were scary,some were knight/king marries the distressed girl/princess. Going through the book was a bit irksome because the stories were not that much interesting. The book was supposed to be for children I suppose but the addition information after each story made it for older readers. So,in the end,it became something in between boring and informative which you don't expect in a collection of fairytales.
Profile Image for sj.
404 reviews80 followers
December 2, 2012
Review originally posted here.

I requested this book from NetGalley early in October.  I knew thought I didn't have a chance at being accepted (because the bigger publishers usually reject me [this isn't me looking for sympathy, it's just that I get denied all the time]), but figured I'd try anyway for a few reasons.

1.  It's Philip Effing Pullman.
2.  It's faerie tales.
3.  I am EXACTLY this book's target demographic.

Several weeks went by and I heard nothing, so I assumed that meant I was going to be rejected yet again.  I had already resolved that I'd buy it as soon as it went on sale, though, because see the above 3 points.

THEN!  I got the email.  The email that said I was approved.  And I had to read it three times to make sure that "approved" wasn't some new iteration of "denied" that I wasn't familiar with.

...and then there were issues with downloading on NetGalley, and various other issues and I thought I was NEVER GOING TO GET TO READ THE DAMN BOOK.

But I persevered and it was finally loaded on my reader, so I curled up and started reading.

Really, before sitting down with it, I'd assumed this book was going to be a bunch of faerie tales actually re-told by Pullman.  Because, y'know - the blurb says this:
Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.

(emphasis mine)

It was clear to me within the first few pages of the introduction, though, that this was not to be the case.
[...] my main interest has always been in how the tales worked as stories. All I set out to do in this book was tell the best and most interesting of them, clearing out of the way anything that would prevent them from running freely. I didn’t want to put them in modern settings, or produce personal interpretations or compose poetic variations on the originals; I just wanted to produce a version that was as clear as water. My guiding question has been: ‘How would I tell this story myself, if I’d heard it told by someone else and wanted to pass it on?’

Oh, okay then.  So, he's not so much RETELLING them, as he is re-telling them.  I know, that last sentence probably only makes sense in my own head, but if you were in my head with me, I can assure you that you'd be nodding in agreement.

"Well, why would I even want to read this, if it's just all the same stories I already know?"

Gosh, you guys ask so many questions in my imagination.

Listen, here's the clever bit with this book.  It's not just the stories, which are kind of a combination of all the different tellings.  It's the commentary.  After each story, Pullman leaves us little notes, telling us which versions he's used, which ATU each one follows (which I totally used to have memorized back in my teens when FAERIE TALES WERE LIFE) and what he would have done differently, were he actually re-telling the story.

An example:  At the end of Hansel and Gretel, he expressed disappointment that the children returned home after outsmarting the witch only to find that the step-mother had already conveniently died, so their Happy Ever After was practically guaranteed at that point.  Pullman said if he was re-writing it as a novel, they would have come home to find either that she was still "ruling the roost," or that he'd have the father kill her to be rid of her (sidenote:  Mr Pullman, if you write this story, I will throw my money in your face and buy it immediately - no joke).

Now, if you're not really big on the original folk-stories in the first place, you might not dig this as much as I did.  This is more of an annotated Grimm/Lang/Perrault, etc. than it is anything new.  If, however, you fall into my the camp that thinks something like this sounds holy freaking crap amazing, I think you should rush right out and buy it (but not until November 8 if you're in the US).

I know, I'm so mean - I'm talking about a book you'll have to wait OVER A WEEK FOR.  If you're in the UK (or, um...anywhere served by the Penguin Classics based out of the UK), you can buy this now.  It just has a different title and cover.  You'll be looking for Grimm Tales for Young and Old and I'll be cursing you under my breath because I totally want the cover that comes with your version of the book.

Thank you so much to Penguin/Viking for giving me a chance to read this early.  I'll be buying myself a copy to put on my shelves next to the rest of my faerie tale collection.
Profile Image for N.J. Ramsden.
Author 6 books15 followers
July 25, 2015
The tales themselves are fine, I've always like the Grimms' gatherings. The problem here is Pullman.

It's unclear exactly what Pullman has done. He pretends to some level of academic credibility, but fails to provide it. I get the feeling he's read a few versions of each story and cobbled together his favourite bits into something he finds personally satisfying, but his notes are rather smug and self-serving. He claims that these stories are not "texts" in the way a modern novel is a text, implying that they are some kind of oral-historic truth, existing on their own as some weird narrative Platonic ideal. And then he proceeds to "improve" them, thereby invalidating his claim.

Aside from patting himself on the back at the end of every piece, he's also managed to make the stories themselves redolent of some patronising middle-class middle-brow sub-literary gurning, too. On the one hand he claims to want to avoid using dialect or whatnot to try to localise the stories in any way (on which point I agree), but then he has dialogue including phrases like "Hey, mate" and similar modern anachronisms that feel totally out of place in the otherwise rather ahistorical, often rather feudal, narrative zone fairy tales mostly (not always, but mostly) inhabit.

So the tales themselves, as far as Pullman has managed to remain absent from them, are fine. But wherever Pullman steps in and starts claiming things and changing the wallpaper and putting in a new carpet, everything goes to pot and the characterful edifice of folktale, with its strangenesses and oddities, takes on the air of a flat-pack bungalow. It's all rather sad.

TL;DR: the Phantom Menace of Grimm editions.
Profile Image for Jessie Drew.
474 reviews22 followers
February 15, 2017
L O V E D I T . This collection of fairy tales was fun and satisfying. Please go out and get it asap.
Profile Image for Laura.
6,872 reviews556 followers
October 30, 2014
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
A prince takes it into his head to travel the world with his faithful servant.

The two Grimm brothers published their first volume of stories, Children's and Household Tales, in 1812 although there were some who disputed their suitability for young minds. Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm devoted their lives to collecting these German folk tales. Inspired by the rise of Romanticism and interest in traditional national stories and lore, in the end they collected more than 200.

Philip Pullman reads the first of five of his re-workings of Grimm Tales, written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of their publication.
Profile Image for Diana.
227 reviews1 follower
February 2, 2016
Este libro fue algo.. decepcionante. Estaba encantada de poder leer los cuentos de los hermanos Grimm pero no fue asi.

A pesar de que el autor de este libro dice que leer estos cuentos es facil y rapido (si lo son) por la manera en la que estan narrados para mi no lo fue tanto.

Creo que al ser cuentos infantiles y narrados para niños y yo al no ser tan niña(? fue lo que hizo que no me gustara.
Siempre pensaba, uhh tengo que terminar el libro, no me daban ganas de agarrarlo y terminarlo.
Creo que hubiese sido mejor, a mi parecer, ir leyendolo de a poco, es decir, agarrar el libro leer unos pocos cuentos y dejarlo y agarrarlo tiempo despues. No tenerlo como lectura fija.

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