Review | Grimm Tales: For Young and Old – Philip Pullman


Paperback (Penguin Classics, 444 pages)

First published 2012; this edition published 2013

Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars

“In this beautiful book of classic fairy tales, award-winning author Philip Pullman has chosen his fifty favourite stories from the Brothers Grimm and presents them in a ‘clear as water’ retelling, in his unique and brilliant voice.

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’, Pullman brings the heart of each timeless tale to the fore, following with a brief but fascinating commentary on the story’s background and history. In his introduction, he discusses how these stories have lasted so long, and become part of our collective storytelling imagination.

These new versions show the adventures at their most lucid and engaging yet. Pullman’s Grimm Tales of wicked wives, brave children and villainous kings will have you reading, reading aloud and rereading them for many years to come.”

I’m not entirely convinced by this collection of fairy tales.

Of course, Philip Pullman is an excellent storyteller – his His Dark Materials series is proof enough of that – but it feels as though he has held back in this collection. There are some tales that are enchanting  – such as his retellings of Snow White, Rapunzel and Cinderella, and his fleshing-out of characters is convincing – but I must admit I skimmed many pages, bored. Grimm Tales is not his finest work – I feel as though he is far more skilled at original tales rather than reshapings of old.

Though I love the style, and I have a deep love for fairy tales, this collection simply did not cut it for me. I’ve given it three stars because there were a few I liked and loved, but overall, I’m not impressed by Grimm Tales. The beautiful cover cannot make up for the lack of excitement within the pages of this book.  I wish I could write a more fulfilling review, but there is very little I can add, save that I have read other, better collections than Grimm Tales.


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