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Staff Book Review: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

May 22, 2020

Eli from the Bainbridge Branch wrote this review of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Gruesome, wild, and insanely imaginative. Are those what you look for when trying to find a good children’s book? Maybe not, but they are the first three adjectives that come to mind when describing Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the stories are available to read in many different formats, but I highly recommend listening as an audiobook). Reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales lends an interesting perspective into just how much children’s literature has changed and evolved from the 1700s until today.           

The Brothers Grimm originally started publishing their stories as more anthropological research books instead of collections for children. This may be the reason for the biggest difference between Grimm fairy tales and modern interpretations; just how gruesome the stories can get. In the original Grimm version of Cinderella, the stepsisters cut off their toe and heel to fit the glass slipper only to have their eyes gouged out by birds in the final scene. It has been a while since I have seen the Disney movie Cinderella but I will bet good money there isn’t any eye-gouging.

Another difference is how many of the original stories lack a central lesson or takeaway. With many kid’s books dedicated to helping youth learn new skills or manage difficult emotions, Grimm fairy tales are remarkably absent of any sort of lessons (in fact, I would advise NOT trying to find a lesson in most Grimm Fairy Tales). Instead, many consist of wildly imaginative worlds and situations so wild and engaging that it is hard not to enjoy reading about them. It is an interesting contrast with a new wave of children’s literature more rooted in making sense of real-world experiences.

Image from page 140 of "The fairy tales of the Brothers Gr… | FlickrDespite the many ways the Grimm stories are different than the children’s books of today, what is most remarkable is what has not changed. In almost every story, there is some element of growing up. Becoming a princess. Marrying a prince. Becoming wary of wolves and creators. This coming of age theme woven into lots of Grimm stories mirrors the stories we still tell our children. It leads one to assume there is something in the experience of growing up that has remained the same for centuries.

Overall, reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales is a nice reminder of how even though things were different the fascination and difficulties with growing up have not changed a bit. Reading the original Grimm fairy tales is definitely worth the time and effort. People who enjoyed reading The Wizard of Oz might really like these stories.



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