Friday, April 06, 2012

Brothers Grimm meet Philip Pullman

I received an email this morning from Laura Packer (via Facebook) that Philip Pullman is coming out with a new book of old tales. In September we can look forward to 50 of the 200 or so tales Grimm, retold Pullman style. It seems appropriate that this year is the 200th anniversary of when the Grimm Brothers originally published their Household Tales for the Young and Old. On 'Bridge to the Stars dot' net they mention that some of the tales are well known, such as Snow White and Cinderella, but he will also be including some of the lesser known ones such as Godfather Death, Three Snake Leaves, and is quoted as saying his favourite Grimm tale is the Juniper Tree, which happens to be one of my favourites. I first read the Juniper Tree in Kevin Crossley-Holland's book Northern Lights: Legends Sagas and Folktales and was fascinated that there was such a blood-thirsty story 'for children'. But this was not one of the most dark stories I found in that book. Nor in other re-tellings of Grimm, either. Those of you who know me, also know that Crossley-Holland is one of my favourite writers. The Juniper Tree is a great example of fairy tales at their darkest. The story includes murder, cannibalism, and revenge; the latter taking form of a good crushing by a millstone (although I have wondered how a bird could lift a gristmill stone capable of crushing someone)! I also wonder if this story is where the saying 'knock your head off" comes from.

Louis Rhead, illstrator.
New York: Harper and Brothers, 1917.

(That step-mother looks nice, right?!)
As with most storytellers, I have a few different editions and translations of Grimm's tales.  It is good to compare them to see how people have treated them.  Pullman has said that he is telling them in his own voice.  On 'Wales on line dot co dot uk' he states that when the Grimm recorded their stories, they were captured as they were told on that day by that informant and if they had come another day the telling would have been different.  I think this is a very true statement.  As with all storytellers, we also bring our own life experiences into the stories, highlighting some parts and toning down others.  I, for one, am very much looking forward to reading Pullman's book and hearing his voice and seeing what he plays and plays down.  The new book will be released on the 6th September, 2012 published by Penguin.  I will be pre-ordering mine right now!

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