Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman

British author Philip Pullman attracted plenty of attention when he said that children should know stories from the Bible. Stop! Wait! Isn’t Pullman famous for being an atheist? Yes, he is. But it is possible to appreciate the Bible even if it’s not understood as “the inspired word of God.” The Bible is part of a widespread cultural heritage and in terms of narrative it is supreme.
The same can be said about the fairy tales collected, transcribed, edited, and re-edited by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Like the Bible, these tales belong to the cultural heritage of the world, and they are also similar to the Good Book in another way. There are no original Bible manuscripts – they have all been eaten by Time – and likewise no one alive today knows what the original oral fairy tales contained, and how they differ from the tales that were published by the Grimms in 1812. “The fairy tale,” Philip Pullman says, “is in a perpetual state of becoming,” and in Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, Pullman becomes part of this process and tradition.
In 2012, Penguin Classics asked Pullman to curate 50 of Grimm’s classic fairy tales, and he “leapt at the chance.” “I thought there was no point being fussy about the original text,” he said in an interview when the book was published, and he was thorough when deciding on what to include in his book. “They are not all of the same quality,” he said. ”Some are easily much better than others. And some are obvious classics.”
What mainly matters to Pullman is clarity in storytelling and the sense that these tales still transmit deep truths. The author’s retelling of the fairy tales from the brothers Grimm is admirable and his “version” – that enlivens these classics – serves a commendable purpose – it brings the fairy tales back to the attention of modern readers.

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