Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel are among the most recognizable stories in the world. It wouldn't be hyperbole to suggest that most adults in the Western world have told at least one of these stories to a child, whether they recite it from memory or read from some version of the tales compiled by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century. There have been many English-language translations and adaptations; now Philip Pullman, who helped redefine fantasy literature for the modern era with the His Dark Materials trilogy, tackles these classics with his own edition of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.
Pullman takes 50 stories--"the cream" of the Grimms' inventory, not just the obvious choices--and presents them in a way that respects the original renditions without being slavish imitations. In some cases, he rectifies what he calls the "clumsy storytelling" of the Grimms' sources to make the story run more smoothly. He gets the utter other-ness of the worlds in which these stories take place, where men fall in love with princesses at first sight and children constantly fall afoul of evil stepmothers. He also reminds us that the stories are sometimes weirder than we remember.
"When a tale is shaped so well that the line of the narrative seems to have been able to take no other path," Pullman says, "and to have touched every important event in making for its end, one can only bow with respect for the teller." There are several moments in Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm in which Pullman himself earns that honor. --Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com