Friday, November 30, 2012


"A Fairy Tale Is Not a Text"

Let's just go ahead and acquire Philip Pullman's interpretation of the Brothers Grimm stories, okay? Maria Tatar says we should, and if anyone should know, it's her.

Pullman’s investment in fairy tales is both intellectual and moral. From fiction, he tells us, we learn about good and evil, cruelty and kindness, but in ways that are always elliptical, as the text works on us in its own silent, secret way. “ ‘Thou shalt not’ might reach the head, but it takes ‘Once upon a time’ to reach the heart,” he once observed. Fairy tales began as adult entertainment—stories told just for the fun of it. But with their exacting distribution of rewards and punishments, they also increasingly tapped into the human urge to derive morals from stories, In his own fiction, as well as in these retellings of the Grimms’ fairy tales, Pullman tells stories so compelling that he is sure to produce in the reader the connection—both passionate and compassionate—that Nabokov called a little “sob in the spine.”

You may also purchase The Bloody Chamber, naturally, and maybe rent this weird-ass movie, and then try to buy the correct edition of Edward Lear's "The Jumblies," even though you keep accidentally buying it with these illustrations instead of THESE ILLUSTRATIONS, which are even better than these illustrations.

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See also, A Kiss Is Not A Contract.


@PatatasBravas Though it's very nice.


@highfivesforall Very very nice


Ah I loved Bloody Chamber and it is a great travesty that I only read the first of the His Dark Materials series, because I loved The Golden Compass. Guess I should finish that and then also buy this new book already!


@PatatasBravas Yessss, read them all! The Subtle Knife is the best.


@PatatasBravas TOTALLY. And if, like me, you read them when you were 12, read them again, because they are way better when you get all the adult stuff, too.


@Ophelia SO GOOD


Is this the same book as Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Pullman, which also seems to have come out in 2012? I'm confused!

(& this is making my christmas shopping list as auntie much easier...thanks!)


I feel like next to this, we should add the completely insane German children's BEDTIME book, Struwwelpeter:


you can't miss the illustrations, along with the rhymes.... you'll never be bad again!


@harebell My first grade class took a field trip to the Struwwelpeter-Museum... it gave me nightmares! Great way to get kids to behave, though. I didn't put a foot wrong till after puberty.


@harebell Ahhhhh! I had a weird time not too long ago where the topic of Struwwelpeter came up independently no less than three times in 48 hours. I was traumatized by this book as a young'n, and I never got past the first story of Struwwelpeter himself.


@cuminafterall Ah yes. And did you ever go to the restaurant in downtown Wiesbaden with the Struwwelpeter paintings on the wall? Nothing creepy about THAT, oh no.


But also, for anyone who needs holiday gift ideas, I think a recent release may be even more scarring: http://books.google.com/books/about/Struwwelpeter.html?id=K0iNCqCfXdYC


! ! ! in first grade, too!

even as a adult, that museum would be a little bit in the same category as the Mutter Medical Museum in Philadelphia for me... intellectually wanting to go, but definitely needing to brace self first/go with a good companion!


@harebell It must have messed me up good, because by the time my 7th grade class went to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, I was tossing around plastinated organs like it was nbd.


@harebell haha my dad was born in Germany in the late '40s and he legit was read those stories in school as a Kindergartener. I found the book a few years ago when we went to a store with Alpine things in North Georgia and he seemed to have fond memories, whereas I was like "This explains a LOT about my childhood."


We should also add Marina Warner's excellent books on fairy tales



@Fayebelline I have had this book on the shelf for years and years and just pulled it out recently and am excited about it all over again! I've never read it because I am a dope who has a weird need to put books where they belong on the shelf as soon as I bring them home from the store (same with DVDs) and then I forget they're there and buy more.


Thank you so much for this, Nicole! I adore anything Philip Pullman. By the way, I've decided you should be a bibliotherapist, since you you're so good at it on thehairpin!


I'm a huge fan of Traveller's Tales, which I read the heart out of when young. Stories of Selkies and the devil on his fiddle and cursed bannocks (a type of bun) and so on. HCA and Oscar Wilde get my love too, forever.

Also I'm so excited about fairytales because I wrote one and it's going to be featured in an e-book of them by small theatre company, Homespun, who put fairytales on stage for children. The stories are more adult though. Mine has Sith ('schie') in it. Traditional sort of devious Scottish spirit/fairy things.


I saw this on Amazon while searching for Cyber Monday deals, and promptly snatched it up! Somebody is getting it for Christmas... probably after I skim it, very carefully, without breaking the binding.


Can we discuss Best Illustrations of Fairy Tale Books Of Yore?

Because if we can, then let's all enthuse about Erroll LeCain's Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Also, I am kind of excited about this book!


@PistolPackinMama Does Kay Nielsen count? I love Kay Nielsen.


@smidge It's not a fairy-tale strictly speaking, but I love Ellen Raskin's illustrations of Goblin Market.


@cuminafterall When I was studying Goblin Market, a fellow student commented that she found the poem's rhyme scheme "extremely erotic". Our professor got really excited and said, "Wow, yes, Rossetti's verse is highly sexualised, but I never thought about how the erotics work in terms of the poem's rhyme scheme, could you elaborate on that?". And the girl looked sheepish and said "Oh, sorry, I meant to say erratic."


@Decca Academic boner-killer.


This book is excellent. I was OBSESSED with fairy tales and myths as a child and love new versions like Angela Carter's and this one. Would also recommend Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue who went on to write Room.
Also, have to brag a bit here: I used to work for Philip Pullman's publisher here in the UK and he came to a meeting to tell us about this book and read us a story from it. Best Friday afternoon treat ever.



That's very cool. It makes me happy to think of him sitting down in a chair and telling stories out loud to his book editing crew.

Maybe you know -- what's this book's relation to Philip Pullman's other one, Grimm Tales for Young and Old? Is it different titles for different markets, or are they actually different books? T


I tried to go and see him and Neil Gaiman discussing this last month, but sadly Pullman was taken ill that morning and couldn't be there. The guest readers and speakers instead were great though, I haven't seen a proper copy of it yet to see whether it's a kindle or a proper book purchase, if it's illustrated and beautiful or not, but it's definitely coming home with me in some format!

acid burn

It is BLOWING MY MIND that there are editions of the Jumblies with non-Edward Gorey illustrations. And that one of them is BETTER????


Love love Bloody Chamber and every word of Angela Carter. Some love for Anne Sexton's Transformations book too, please.

Bob Loblaw

This seems like a relevant question (mostly) for this thread:

There was a book of fairy tales with GORGEOUS illustrations that I loved as a kid which had the original Little Mermaid story in it (in which the mermaid ultimately dies), and there was this story I adored which I can not find the name of--can someone help? Here is what happened:

A young girl who lived with her mean stepmother and spineless father was picking strawberries and another young girl mysteriously appeared, spoke with her, then took out a box that had in it a leaf with a dewdrop on it. She dropped the dew to the ground and an ocean appeared, and then the leaf turned into a boat! They sailed to the girl's home-land/dimension(?) where the people treated the strawberry-picking girl wonderfully and made her all sorts of fancy clothes. Then they made a statue of the girl and put a poisonous snake in it, and they sent that to the girl's home, the stepmother came out and yelled at the statue thinking it was the girl, and the snake came out, bit her, and she died. Then I think the dad got poisoned later also?

It was pretty dark. But cool! What was this story??? Does anyone know?


@Bob Loblaw Weirdly, last weekend I happened to pick up my old copy of Lang's Violet Fairy Book and the strawberry story was the first one in there. I read it many times when I was wee, which probably explains a lot...
ETA: the mermaid story does not sound familiar, though--not in that book.


@Bob Loblaw

I looked at the table of contents of the book that @ru_ri mentioned - was it this one??

Bob Loblaw

@craygirl @ru_ri Sweet merciful crap! YOU GUYS ARE MY HEROES!

You are hereby exempt from any chores or annoying business for at least three days, and your friends should carry you around on giant lily pads until it gets boring!

Thank you SO much! I have seriously been trying to figure it out for a while now. Hooray!!!


@Bob Loblaw *bows* Glad I could help! It's really an odd coincidence--I had a Japanese houseguest, and I guess she was looking for some easy reading in English, so she asked me about that book of fairy tales. I picked it up and started leafing through it, and realized how bizarre the first story was.
And now I am home and looking at the book, and the last story has a mermaid in it! So I guess it must be the book you're looking for. I'll start looking for giant lily pads now!


@Bob Loblaw So bummed that I randomly knew this but someone else got there first. VERY weird story.


I always measure a writer by how they interpret Little Red Riding Hood. To the Amazon preview I go!


I have the Ian Beck illustrated version of the Jumblies (well, my 6 year old does) and it really annoys me because THAT IS NOT HOW THEY LOOK.

chunk lite

Hairpin book help! So I have been trying to track down this short story for ages - it was a short story about a woman visiting her aunt somewhere in Europe to stay with her. On the way there, the carriage was flanked by great wolves but everyone was all "oh that's nbd - there's shit tons of wolves here". It sort of comes out later that her aunt (DUN DUN DUHHHHH) is totes a wolf and that it's her family legacy and that she will ultimately be one, too.

I don't remember very many specifics, but the thing that always stuck out to me was that there was a tapestry that the aunt had made, that had many wolves, and it described that she had taken time to embroider full sets of teeth on them. I read it like 17 years ago, when my older sister had brought it home from her women's studies class, but have not been able to find it since as my memory of it is very fuzzy. Does it sound familiar to anyone?


@chunk lite Maybe "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken? I'm not sure, it's been ages since I read it--but that sounds about right? Great shivery-scary read!


@chunk lite Not 100% sure, but I think that could be Tanith Lee's Red As Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer


I love, love, love the His Dark Materials trilogy! This review has resulted in me going to Amazon and purchasing 4 of his books, including this one.


THE JUMBLIES. I read this to my son a few years ago--major bonding moment. Now we watch The Daily Show together, which is also great, but in a different way of course.

Amy K

And if you want to learn more about fairy tale's (or hear commentary from such experts as Maria Tatar), check out Tabled Fables, a new podcast about fairy tales. http://tabledfables.tumblr.com/


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