The Brothers Grimm are famous for taking age old stories, handed down through generations by word of mouth, and putting them down on paper. Everybody at some point in their lives has seen an interpretation of at least one of the classic fairy-tales, whether in a story book, a production or a popular Disney adaptation. After coming across the book at a very reasonable price in a Algoritam, lovely bookshop in Dubrovnik, I felt it was about time to take a look at the collection to see just what has made them such an inspiration for literature and popular culture.
For a collection that is constantly being retold and modernised, the plots are old fashioned and very repetitive. Most of the fairy-tales comprise of a King who sets a number of seemingly impossible challenges for prospective husbands of his daughter, who just so happens to be the most beautiful woman in the entire kingdom – if not the world. The man who manages to stay alive and complete these challenges – usually with help from magical toads, wrinkly old people or talking animals – gets to marry the princess. I am not ruining anything when I say that normally there is a big wedding at the end, as well as an ‘and they lived happily ever after’.
I shouldn’t expect anything more from children’s stories. But these fairy-tales are not really all that child friendly. You may be familiar with the story of Cinderalla. The Brothers Grimm version, Ashputtel, is far more gruesome than the popular Disney animation. When one of the ugly step sisters tries on the slipper only to find her toe is too big, the horrible step mother cries, “Never mind, cut it off” and hands her a knife. This leads to lots of blood and a rather disgusted Prince. I must admit, I quite liked this horrific surprise, which I had not expected. Of course, we still got the ‘happily ever after’ ending, but it was nice to have the added blood and gore, to spice things up a little.
Another favourite of mine is the story of a couple of kind hearted little elves who come in the middle of the night to help an old shoemaker and his wife. Aptly named, The Elves and the Shoemaker, it is a loving tale about generosity and selflessness. With yet another happy ending, this was a nice, uplifting fairy-tale, which made me want to rush out to perform my very own random act of kindness and spread the love.
Apart from the odd comical moments of children killing their step parents, or old witches turning into goats, the rest of the collection was either the same story but slightly altered or simply boring. I don’t even want to think about the tales of The Young Giant and The Tailor which seemed to be a long rambling tale about nothing in particular. And don’t get me started on The Adventures of Chanticleer and Partlet.
So it has not been one of my favourite books to read, and I was thankful that they were only short stories so that I could read a more interesting book at the same time. If you are considering buying this book, it might be an idea to choose an illustrated copy with colourful pictures of all the magical creatures it contains. At least then you will have a nice book, even if the stories aren’t always that enjoyable.
If you are interested in buying the book, you can always click the picture below!