Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version

On the 200th anniversary of the collected fairy tales, Philip Pullman gave us the Grimm we know and the Grimm we don’t know—50 tales in all, and purportedly the complete works. Half the book (now in paperback) features the standards; the other features the more obscure but equally delightful and powerful tales. I particularly enjoyed “The Cat and the Mouse Set up House,” “The Riddle,” “The Singing Bone,” and “The Donkey Cabbage.” Pullman’s translation is lyrical and economical in style, rather similar to his writing in the His Dark Materials trilogy. He tells them less sensationally (few “Boos!” here), but with more depth of feeling and psychological undertones. Each selection includes copious revelatory end-notes with sources (citations to similar stories from Aesop and European writers, particularly the great Italo Calvino) and brief analyses. In the introduction, Pullman notes that, “Like jazz, storytelling is an art of performance, and writing is a performance, too.” Pullman performs at the very highest level, and at this point has established himself as a veritable 21st-century Tolkien.