Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (Philip Pullman)

I love fairy tales. I cannot get enough of them no matter what I do--I love the Fables graphic novels and Once Upon a Time (which is a pretty good TV show that I suspect ripped off the basic ideas of Fables). Some of my favorite Disney movies are fairy-tale based (Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty). There is something so wonderful to me about fairy tales.

I also love Philip Pullman. The first time I read The Golden Compass, I was eight. It enchanted and fascinated me and captured my attention in a way that only Harry Potter had been doing at that point in my life. So when I found out that Philip Pullman was putting out a fairy tale collection, I couldn't contain my excitement.

I got the opportunity to read an eARC of the book from NetGalley, so thanks to the publisher and the website for setting me up with the book. I unfortunately took a long time to start the book and then eventually finish it, so I apologize for this not really being pre-book-release. Whoops.

Anyway, I loved the book. Philip Pullman is a great writer and does a great job handling the fairy tales--he doesn't get too modern (except for a few strange instances, like when one character tells another that she is "dressed to kill" or another in which the king orders his men to blow up and bomb a character to prevent him from coming to the castle, which strike me as strange anachronisms that gum up the flow of the stories) and he also doesn't get too antiquated. My favorite part is the short commentary that Pullman gives at the end of each tale--he includes the Aarne-Thompson-Uther number, which is very exciting for me, as well as relevant, comparable versions of tales in collections of other folklores (mostly Russian, British and Italian collections). The commentaries themselves are delightful insights into the author's feelings on the tale (which I always find fascinating) or the process of writing it, whether he left it alone or added something for the sake of the plot or borrowed from a similar tale somewhere else; it's a great behind-the-scenes look at the book.

The collection of 50 stories itself is pretty fantastic. There are some great stories I'd never experienced before ("The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers", "Godfather Death", "The Juniper Tree" and "The Nixie of the Millpond" stick out, but there are many others) as well as all the classic tales you might expect, like "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Snow White" and an interesting version of "Beauty and the Beast" called "The Singing, Springing Lark"--it's surprising how few of the tales are actually that popular; Pullman includes all the major players, and there aren't that many: less than 10. There are a few of the stories that are fairly short or different versions of the same story (I'm thinking "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes", which is basically Cinderella with a strange fixation on eyeballs), and I question their inclusion, but I think it's good to see how similar some of the tales are. It's important to take the book in pieces or the similar nature and themes (wrong is done, people end up married) sort of numb your mind. This is, of course, a criticism of the nature of fairy tales and not the book I read; Philip Pullman is no more capable of solving these problems than anyone else.

If you at all interested in fairy tales and would like to read a collection, I have no reservations in recommending this clean, compact version. It was truly a delight.

My Rating: 4.5/5
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm on Goodreads
See what I've been reading lately!

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