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abookaweek 2012: week forty-four

2012 November 4
by Romy

The Complete Fairy Tales, by the brothers Grimm, translated by Jack Zipes

Category: Compilations

Story: Jack Zipes translated 279 (read ’em and weep!) of the fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Opinion: As with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, I picked up this book because I wanted to revisit the fairy tales I listened to and read when I was a kid. However it only took me 40 stories or so to realize I was in way over my head. Fairy tales are great stories, there’s a good reason they are part of the foundation of modern Western storytelling, but oh my fucking god are they ever repetitive.

With a few exceptions, these stories are a mish-mash of a few elements, i.e. ‘evil stepmother’ and ‘beautiful princess’, or ‘getting lost in the forest’ and ‘parents who cannot recognize their own children’. If you are dumb or beautiful, you are good. If you are cunning or ugly you are bad. If you are a woman, you are a witch, princess, farmer’s wife, or miller’s daughter. If you are a man, you are a king, farmer, soldier, tailor, huntsman or just poor. To mix things up there were some ridiculous tales about a reed, a coal, and a bean, but those were hardly entertaining.

Of course now that I’ve finished it (I started reading it in March) everyone is talking about this new collection of fairy tales written by Phillip Pullman, which is supposed to be very good. Unfortunately I think I’m going to have to give myself a year or two to recover from this beast.

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