Philip Pullman brings all the stories that you know from the Brothers Grimm. And he adds a few more that you’ve never heard of for good luck in this fantastic translation and adaptation.
As Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm discovered that people were actually reading and enjoying their stories panic began to set in. These popular stories of ordinary people included life in all its magical and lurid detail. When they began to become popular amongst all classses and ages something had to be done. The violence stayed and out went all the sex to be replaced with a good, healthy dollop of moralising.
Short and Snappy Keeps Us Happy
Not only has Philip Pullman redressed the balance but he had cut the stories right down to the bone. The moralising has gone and these stripped down versions fairly leap off the page. Comment and allusion have disappeared and action is king in these new versions. New, but very much in the style of oral storytelling with no frills and tight phrasing that make the stories zip along.
Familiar and Strange Stories Combined
There are familiar stories like Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella. There are also less familiar tales such as Thousandfirs and Bearskin. The best opening sentence must come from the little known The Mouse the Bird and the Sausage. It begins “A mouse, a bird and a sausage decided to set up home together.” Pure surrealism, loads of fun and a bit disturbing.
The shadow side of life is never far away in these Stories. From the devil himself to the extreme and bloody punishments meeted out to the guilty. Not to mention the trials and tribulations that the heroines and heroes must endure. The suffering of everyday people trying to get by in a cruel world still ring true and these stories are still painful, poignant and uplifting in our sophisticated and cynical times. All that is needed is an open heart and some time to sink fully enough into the stories. Then you will really hear them.
Well worth reading
These are great retellings but there is one part of this book that it is important to ignore. For some reason Philip Pullman, rather like the Brothers Grimm before him cannot stop himself from giving his opinion of the stories. At the end of each story he pontificates of the virtues and shortcomings of the tale in question. Leave the author to his opinions and just enjoy the stories. They are not about knowing how to think but learning how to feel.