Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

Paul Pullman has chosen his 50 favorite Brothers Grimm stories and retold them rather closely to the spirit of the originals, from the quests and romance of classics such as Rapunzel, Snow White and Cinderella to the danger and wit of such lesser-known tales as The Three Snake Leaves, Hans-My-Hedgehog and Godfather Death. The new versions include commentary on each story's history and background. The Brothers Grimm harvested their tales from friends and old books. Many of the tales date back thousands of years and have variations in other languages and cultures. The decision by the Grimm brothers to collect and publish fairy tales was not an isolated phenomenon, but part of a widespread preoccupation of the time, about 200 years ago. Pullman said in an interview that it’s not the words in the tales that matter, but rather the sequence of events.

Here are my favorite fairy tales, two are from Grimm.

  • The Goose Girl, which is Included in Pullman’s retelling, which ends with the gentle, good-hearted princess triumphant.
  • Beauty and the Beast, written by the French writer Madame Leprince de Beaumont in the eighteenth century, which was immediately so popular it spawned a whole new rash of versions by other writers and inspired classic novels like Jane Eyre.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans, which combines courage and terror in equal measure. 
  • Grimm’s Six Swans, which is  not included in Pullmans anthology but should have been, tells the story of devoted sister who has to save her brothers from an evil spell by neither speaking nor laughing for six years, and knitting shirts of starwort to give them back their human form.  
  • Hans Christian Anderson’s The Nightingale because the true nightingale doesn't need golden feathers.
  • Oscar Wildes’s The Birthday of the Infanta where the ugly dwarf doesn't turn into a beautiful swan. Wilde loves him as the ugly dwarf.
Originally posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012
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