Reading Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales was a repetitive process. My 630-page leather edition (from Barnes and Noble Books; not same version as the Amazon link at left) included numerous retellings of stories very similar; it felt as if the compilers were taking translations from multiple sources. Then again, maybe the Grimm brothers wrote down similar stories with similar themes multiple times for their readers. They were, after all, trying capture the folk tales of the era; maybe those folk tales were likewise repetitive.
The Barnes and Noble edition I read did not include an introduction, so my experience was simply with the stories themselves. Despite the repetition of stories, I highly enjoyed reading the collection, especially as I took them slowly, reading a few stories (up to 20 or 30 pages) a day, mostly in the evening before bed. True “bedtime stories.”
But these stories probably aren’t for children, unless the children are pretty thick-skinned. (Note that I classify it, on this site, as Fiction, not Children’s Literature.) Grimm’s stories had blatant morals (such as how laziness leads to your death and wicked stepmothers who abuse children must, in the end, meet their horrendous end) and gruesome violence (such as stepmothers who decapitate stepchildren, girls so desperate to get a man they cut off their toes, and travelers who blind starving fellow travelers as payment for food).
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the retreat into a world in which the animals one meets on the path are really princes in disguise, in which the dead come back to life, and in which magical fairies and witches regularly rescue those who really are deserving of assistance.
I don’t want to live in the world of the Brother’s Grimm. The violence and retribution is horrendous. Yet, the fairy aspects of the tales made some of them magical, and I look forward to visiting other fairy tales in the future – including Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen.
Have you read Grimm? What was your verdict: Violent or Magical? I, personally, am torn between the two.
If you have reviewed any length collection of the fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.