Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip PullmanTwo hundred years ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now, at a veritable fairy-tale moment—witness the popular television shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time and this year’s two movie adaptations of “Snow White”—Philip Pullman, one of the most popular authors of our time, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.
From much-loved stories like “Cinderella” and “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Rapunzel” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “Briar-Rose,” “Thousandfurs,” and “The Girl with No Hands,” Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.
Review: Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales, at Unicorn Theatre
The starting gun has been sounded on Christmas show season, thanks to this atmospheric offering from the Unicorn. Dad tries to calm his over-excited brood by reading to them and gradually they start to assume the roles themselves, using the accoutrements of their toy box as props. The freighted dynamic of this festive family runs like a thread — or perhaps a trail of breadcrumbs — through the piece, performed by a versatile ensemble of seven. In the tale of The Goose-Girl at the Well, the cast puff on miniature plastic kazoos to imitate squawking geese. Enchanted, yes, but strange and unsettling too.
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They were told by and to adults; children might be among the audience, but the stories, with their murders, abductions, beheadings, and cruel and unusual punishments, make no concessions. Philip Pullman's marvellous retelling of 53 of the Grimms' tales — subtitled "For Young and Old" — brings out this transgenerational quality. Pullman has enlivened the stories with his swift, supple prose and occasional, added flourishes of description or humour, but he has stayed true to their essential simplicity. As Pullman notes in his illuminating introduction, the great virtue of fairy tales is their swiftness: "All we need is the word 'Once Some start with an arresting strangeness: "A mouse, a bird and a sausage decided to set up home together. Pullman draws on other versions besides the Brothers Grimm, such as Charles Perrault's and Italo Calvino's re-tellings, and sometimes produces his own synthesis of the best elements of several variants. A gloss after each story explains its roots, and how Pullman thinks it is significant or remarkable.
Sara Maitland isn't entirely convinced by Philip Pullman's retelling of the Grimms.
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Once upon a Christmas...
T his year is the bicentennial of the first publication of a work that WH Auden described as one of "the few indispensable, common-property books upon which western culture can be founded" and "next to the Bible in importance". It also gave us the fictional character with the highest name recognition in the English language, Cinderella although in , when the book was published in German, the name she had was Ashputtel. - This, says Philip Pullman in the introduction to this sprightly collection, is not true. They collated them from bourgeois sources, sometimes even literary ones.