Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Complete Brother's Grimm

Long ago, when wishes often came true, there lived a King whose daughters were all handsome, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun himself, who has seen everything, was bemused every time he shone over her because of her beauty.

Many of us are very familiar with the fairy tales compiled (and often tweaked) by the Grimm brothers. They have been a part of the childhoods of generations of people around the world. They are so much a part of our culture, that they bleed into other mediums like movies and television. One has to wonder if the Grimms realized that when they were compiling these stories they were creating what W. H. Auden would call one of the founding works of western culture.

The Plot:

Though each story is unique, most of them follow pretty similar plots. There is a princess who must be rescued, younger sons who must prove their worth, witches to be outsmarted, and giants to kill. Some are long and some are short, but each has little magic and wisdom of its own.

My Review (Caution-Spoilers):

to self: never ever ever read 700 pages of Fairy Tales in one go. Ever. By the end, I had started rooting for the witches. Death to the beautiful princesses and the smart aleck princes! But I digress.

Seriously, these are great tales to read, but you should never try to read them without a break. My biggest problem was that, except for the well-known tales, most of the plots were recycled over and over throughout the collection. You would read four or five stories in a row that were almost exactly the same. This made parts of it extremely tedious.

Of course, the characters are all one-dimensional, but there were a few surprises in there. You wouldn't believe how many princesses outsmarted the gazillions of guys seeking their hands. Of course, one really smart guy outwitted them in the end, but these aren't exactly your typical damsels in distress. There are some tough woman in this book. You also wouldn't believe how many guys would fall for a girl only to forget about her the minute she was out of sight and try to marry someone else. Typical.

One thing you should be prepared for before reading these to your kids is the violence. These are not the cute Disney versions. Some of these are seriously disturbing and frightening. They are really a great glimpse into German and East Europe culture and what they considered frightening. Woods filled with witches, devils, wolves, and giants. Heads chopped off, eyes poked out, and children sold. Probably the most disturbing story was "The Juniper Tree". Wow.

None of this is to say that I didn't enjoy any of the stories. I found many of them to be fun reads. Of course, the famous one are the best, like "The Frog Prince", "The Sleeping Beauty", "Rumpelstiltskin", and "Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs". But my most favorite was "The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces". Twelve princesses who disappear every night to dance with the twelve cutest guys in the kingdom. Nice.

So, my advice to you is, purchase a "Selected Works" edition of the stories. That should give you all of the popular ones without having to wade through the not so fun one. But definitely read them. They are a fascinating glimpse not only German culture, but Western culture as a whole.


Anonymous said...

This is one of the most difficult websites to read. The font color against the green background is a very poor choice

bookwormans said...

There is actually a very nice background wallpaper that all of the text matches. However, I do know that some computers have difficulty loading it, so I have changed the background color to white. Hopefully this will make it easier to read for those whose systems will not load the wallpaper.