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.
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.