Books

'Grimm's Household Tales'

Filled with both familiar and unfamiliar stories, most accompanied by enchanting illustrations, Grimm's Household Tales will charm both young and old.


Grimm's Household Tales

Publisher: The British Library
Length: 320 pages
Authors: Brothers Grimm, Meryvn Peake (illustrator), Sarah Waters (forward)
Price: $22.50
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2012-07
Amazon

Fairy tales never seem to go out of style. Disney's adaptations of "Sleeping Beauty", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Snow White" are still household staples. On the small screen, television shows like Grimm keep the “once upon a time” method of storytelling alive. As the press release for the most recent edition Grimm’s Household Tales (illustrated by Mervyn Peake with a foreword by Sarah Waters) notes, recent film versions of Snow White have grossed millions.

Still, some fairy tales seem a little more enduring than others. Certainly, "Snow White" and "Cinderella" are just as popular now as they were both in the 19th century and in 1946, the year Peake’s illustrated Household Tales was first published. But Household Tales includes over 70 stories that range from the familiar to the not so familiar and everything in between. While skimming the table of contents, I saw the title “The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids”; it ignited a spark in my memory. By the time the wolf was making his voice soft by eating chalk, the memory had come back to me, full blown.

Other stories remained unfamiliar, and to be honest, I’m not certain I read “The Turnip”, “The Shoes that Were Danced to Pieces”, or “Fritz and His Friends” as a child. But whether the tale is familiar or unfamiliar, the audience child or adult, the Grimms' stories possess a charm that defies both time and age. The language is simple and perhaps a trifle old fashioned (which to me just makes the stories more appealing), but the tales are clever and often include both a realism and a wittiness that may be surprising to some.

Over time, the Grimms' stories have developed a bit of a reputation, a reputation of being disturbing and, well, grim. And there is truth to this. At the ending of "Snow White" for example, the Wicked Queen goes to Snow White’s wedding and finds that “iron slippers had already been put upon the fire, and they were brought in with tongs, and set before her. Then she was forced to put on the red-hot shoes, and dance until she dropped down dead.” Definitely gruesome.

Or think about the scene in "Cinderella" where the sisters cut off their toes and heels to try to get their feet to fit into the coveted glass slipper. As author Sarah Waters notes in the foreword “with their recurring cast of vulnerable characters—neglected children, ‘simpletons’, cashiered soldiers, faithful dogs and labouring horses past their best and facing the chop—they offer a quite terrifying glimpse of the brutalities and uncertainties of peasant life.” But the stories are not without whimsy or humor.

Some stories blend death (and destruction) with something almost comic or, at the very least, a sense of satirical ridiculousness. The first story, “The Three Sons of Fortune”, is a prime example. It opens traditionally—an ill father with three sons. Realizing he is dying, and having no money, he calls his sons “before him, and he gave to the first a cock, to the second a scythe, and to the third a cat”. The father also dispenses a piece of valuable advice “what I now give you seems of little worth, but all depends on your making a sensible use of it. Only seek out a country where such things are still unknown and your fortune is made".

Fast forward to the end of the story and the youngest brother and his cat. He travels to an island “and it luckily happened that no cats had ever yet been seen here, and that the mice got the upper hand so much that they danced upon the tables”. Needless to say, the cat is welcome and the son is given, in Grimm’s vernacular, great treasure and riches. All is well, until the cat “mews”. Her mews terrify the people and they run away, but “the king took counsel [and] at last it was determined to send a herald to the cat, and demand that she should leave the palace, or if not, she was to expect that force would be used against her”. If you know cats, you can guess what happens from here. The King brings force in the form of a cannon, and they burn the palace to the ground. The cat, of course, simply jumps out a window to safety.

The images often highlight the more humorous elements of the stories. One of the illustrations for “The Three Sons of Fortune” shows a clearly smirking cat with a smoking castle in the background. The illustration of the bespectacled, finger-pointing magical lion from “The Twelve Huntsman” may also make readers smile. Not all the images are whimsical (for example the opening illustration for “The Grave-Mound” shows a peasant in a cemetery), but all add perspective to the stories and each can be “read” just like the texts.

The opening two-page color spread, which includes elements—trolls, a dragon, a prince and princess, a cat, etc.—from several stories deserves a most careful reading. Moreover, the images (this is the first time since the original publication that all of Peake’s color illustrations have been included) provide an excellent excuse for obtaining a new copy of this classic.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image