The tales gathered by the Grimm brothers are at once familiar, fantastic, and frightening. They seem to belong to no time, or to some distant feudal age of fairytale imagining. Grand palaces, humble cottages, and the forest full of menace are their settings; and they are peopled by kings and princesses, witches and robbers, millers and golden birds, stepmothers and talking frogs.
Regarded from their inception either as simple nursery stories or as raw material for the folklorist, the tales were in fact compositions, collected from literate tellers and shaped into a distinctive kind of literature. This new translation mirrors the apparent artlessness of the Grimm’s, and fully represents the range of less well-known fables, morality tales, and comic stories as well as the classic tales. It takes the stories back to their roots in German Romanticism and includes variant stories and tales that were deemed unsuitable for children. In her fascinating Introduction, Joyce Crick explores their origins, and their literary evolution at the hands of the Grimm’s.
[IN the old days, when wishing still helped, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the younger was so beautiful that the sun itself, which after all has seen so many things, marvelled whenever it shone upon her face – THE FROG KING, OR IRON HENRY]
(Oxford University Press, 1 October 2009, first published 20 December 1812, 344 pages, paperback, bought from @AmazonUK)
So, until I read this collection I thought I knew the stories of the Brothers Grimm pretty well. I stand corrected. Of the 82 stories collected here, I recognised less than 30. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the Hans Christian Andersen stories I read last week. Many of the stories are very short, and in fact a few are less than a page long. I enjoyed the stories I knew. The stories I didn’t know left me cold. The characters are all poorly developed and irritatingly similar. Some of the stories didn’t make much sense and they were, for the most part, very bland. Also, there were several stories in a row more than once which were almost identical. This was a huge disappointment.