The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

9780691160597By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes

The Short Take:

Don’t read these to your kids! This is the real deal, no Disneyesque re-imagining. Some stories might feel familiar, but the plots will twist in ways you never read before, unless you devoured the old Andrew Lang compilations like I did. Despite that there were still many delightful, humorous, shocking surprises.

Why?

This book, which came out three years ago, is the very first English translation of the complete Grimms’ original edition. Since the two volumes of stories in this single book came out in 1812 and 1815, I don’t understand the delay, but it was worth the wait.

You say you’ve already read the original Brothers Grimm? Well, they did publish six other editions, editing and softening the stories with each subsequent outing. This is the original material and its first time in English. Don’t skip the introduction either. The story of the brothers, their quest for these stories, and how their work evolved is a fascinating read.

There are 156 different tales in this book. Some are variations on a single theme, others barely longer than a paragraph; many sound vaguely familiar, many more are unheard of. However, don’t go looking for any fairies — there are none in this collection.

It took me so long to finish this book because I savored one story at a time. They deserved it.

A Little Plot:

I cannot resist a brief retelling of one tale that cracked me up:

There were two brothers, one wealthy and one poor. The poor brother was a farmer and one of his turnips got to be truly enormous. He didn’t want to eat it, since little turnips would taste the same, nor did he want to sell it, since it wouldn’t earn much. He decided to give it to the king. It filled his cart and took two oxen to move. The king was delighted and gave the poor brother so much gold and property he became richer than his wealthy brother.

The jealous wealthy brother decided to bring the king a better gift — horses and gold — expecting something ever greater in return. The king was delighted with the gift, saying the only thing he possessed that was finer and rarer was his giant turnip, which he gave the wealthy brother.

The story continues, by the way, but this is all I’m sharing.

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