Briefly Noted: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version,  by Philip Pullman, Penguin (11/8/2012), 400 pp

Best known for his Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) Philip Pullman turns his attention to the now-classic fairy tales published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in 1812. Most of us were brought up on one retelling of these stories or another, including the Disney versions. Pullman’s retelling focuses on his favorites with an imaginative approach that honors the originals.

From the Publisher: 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.

Frontispiece of first volume of Grimms’ “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” – Wikipedia

From Ron Hogan (founder of Beatrice): Right away, you get a sense of the comic earthiness to Pullman’s characters–and since, as he notes in his introduction, the characters in Grimm’s tales don’t have psychological motivations or interior lives as such, dialogue becomes the chief instrument through which a storyteller can give them personality. It’s a tool Pullman uses to masterful effect. Even a simple, 16-word exchange between the protagonist of “Lazy Heinz” and his equally slothful wife can reveal volumes about the characters.

Pullman includes notes, sources and information about each tale’s variations. This one looks like a good read for cold Winter nights.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novels “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande,” both of which are available in trade paperback, Kindle and Nook from Vanilla Heart Publishing. His paranormal short story “Moonlight and Ghosts” was released for Kindle and Nook in September.

6 thoughts on “Briefly Noted: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman

  1. Interesting, Pullman doing this. I loved The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife; wasn’t too into the third book. I’ve got a fairly close to original translation of Grimm’s. Have you read “Clever Maids”? Subtitled “The Secret History of The Grimm Fairy Tales.” Turns out, it wasn’t so much the Grimm brothers who collected the stories, but rather, women who were the storytellers, who then passed them on to the Grimms. Some people think the brothers wrote the tales, but that isn’t true, either. I highly recommend Clever Maids; if you read it, be sure to have a copy of the fairy tales nearby to refer to.

    1. Never read “Clever Maids,” but have read in multiple places that the brothers collected rather than wrote the tales. After hearing the Disney versions, I doubt most people would like the originals. I agree about the Pullman series: the third book wasn’t as interesting.


      1. You should look for Clever Maids at your library, or see if they can get it for you through inter-library loan. It’s very interesting.

  2. Good post; interesting.

    Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author, Editor and Speaker Website: Five novels, two non fiction books. All available on See my Author Page at Amazon: Vanilla Heart Publishing:: And now, free reads first four chapters of all my books: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury


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