Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales

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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.

Other Reviews:

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.

Reviewed on March 3, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I am always so glad I have you to review books!! You have read so many that I have thought about reading and it is great to have an idea about a book before I read it. This was one that I have always wanted to read. Now I know to check out the edition I get first!

  • I’d definitely say that the Brothers Grimm can be shocking these days. But I have a dark thirst for violence with my magic, so Grimm it is.

  • My nine year old daughter was just telling me the other day about a version of Cinderella that her friend had told her about. She said something about the stepsisters cutting off their toes and heels to fit their feet in the slipper. She was pretty confused by it because she thought that Disney’s Cinderella was the “real” version and that Walt Disney had made up the story of Cinderella. I tried to explain to her about the Grimm brothers and she just thought it was weird that fairy tales could be violent. I haven’t read any of the real Grimm fairy tales but I’ve heard they’re gruesome. I am curious though and I may try to read them someday.

  • Oh, I love Grimm, and I think the gore is all a part of the charm. Normally I detest anything gothic or macabre, but fairytales are the one exception.

    Have you read Angela Carter’s collection? The stories are similarly ‘dark’, but are wonderful to read, and more lyrical than the original folk stories 😀

  • ak, I got the leather-bound edition years ago — I love how it looks and I didn’t mind the repetition, but yes, having an intro and information about the translation would have been nice!
    Julia, shocking yes! But entertaining all the same. Sounds like you enjoyed these!
    Kim, at first they were shockingly gruesome, but then I came to expect the gore. Definitely keep the Disney version for the kids, though, I’d say!
    tuesday, yes, there was a bit of charm behind the gore. I also dislike “gothic” and “macabre” but you’re right that these worked OK. Haven’t heard of Angela Carter’s collection. But now I’m on a fairy tale kick, so I will look it up!

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