Nov 8, 2012

Book Review: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

Book Cover for Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman
Title: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Author: Philip Pullman
Series: N/A
Genres: Anthology, Fairy Tales

Publisher: Viking Adult (Part of Penguin Group)
Source: NetGalley
Format: ebook
Pages: 400
Publication Date: November 8, 2012

Check it out at: Amazon | Goodreads

My Rating: 5 out of 5

Two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now Philip Pullman, one of the most accomplished authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Pullman retells his fifty favorites, from much-loved stories like “Cinderella” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “The Three Snake Leaves," "Godfather Death" and "The Girl with No Hands." At the end of each tale he offers a brief personal commentary, opening a window on the sources of the tales, the various forms they've taken over the centuries and their everlasting appeal.

Suffused with romance and villainy, danger and wit, the Grimms' fairy tales have inspired Pullman's unique creative vision—and his beguiling retellings will draw you back into a world that has long cast a spell on the Western imagination.

If you ask me which one was the first book I got, I would probably have to lie, but I can honestly say that the first three books I had were collection of fairy tales: Hans Christian Andersen's, Brothers Grimm's & Russian folklore. In fact, they are one of the reasons why I learned to read when I was just 4 or 5 years old.
How did this happen? Funny story. My mother was reading me a fairy tale from one of these books and when we got to the last page, two paragraphs of text became: "And then the prince found her and kissed her and they lived happily ever after." The last illustration for the story was girl filthy and ragged half-covered with snow in the street. I felt right away that I was being cheated and demanded from my mother to read me what is truly written there, but she stubbornly stuck to her end of the tale and explained that the picture was taken just before the prince appeared.
So, I had to take some drastic measures. I asked my great-grandmother, who baby-sitted while my parents were at work, to teach me to read. She was an excellent teacher and very soon I could read the story by myself. As you probably guessed, the fairy tales was 'The Little Match Girl' by Hans Christian Andersen and we all know there is no prince for her in the end. While I re-read these books, I found out that my mother did some heavy-editing while she read them to me, because a lot of these stories did not have a classic happy ending.

Did that make me dislike them? No. I became a fairy tale book nerd. My favorite thing was discovering tales from different countries or regions. When I joined the library and found that they had massive collection of books with fairy tales from all around the world I was in heaven. I even read the Greek 'fairy tales' aka. myths.
As I grew older, I discovered other book genres and the fairy tales slept on my shelves and in my heart, neglected but never completely forgotten.
This book looked like a perfect opportunity to visit those old friends.

Philip Pullman is one of my favorite authors. If you haven't read His Dark Materials trilogy you better correct that mistake soon. The first book The Golden Compass has also a movie based on it. (You can check out the trailer here.)
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. Currently, there is one free story from this book on Penguin's website, "The Fisherman and his wife": you can read it here.

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 Penguin Group, USA via NetGalley in exchange for a review.


  1. thanks for sharing.

  2. This brings me back to my childhood of laying in bed and looking forward to another great story which made my imagination go wild. We will cherish this book and it will be passed down to other generations.

    1. Yes it's exactly that feeling. You want to read them all in one night and then again to read them one-at-the-time so the book lasts as long as it can. :)


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