Book Review: Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman

41rp8tlB11L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Edition: Paperback, 444 pages
Published By: Penguin Classics
Genre: Adult, Fairytales, Retellings, Horror
Rating: 3 stars
Completed: 27th February 2017

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.


When I think about it, I didn’t actually read that many fairy tales because I watched a lot of the Disney classic films but the first one I watched was Snow White. It’s not my favourite now as I love Beauty & The Beast but Snow White was definitely my favourite as a young girl.



This was gifted to me from my friend who knew that I wanted to read more children’s classic. The stories in this novel are a series of fairy tale retellings that Philip Pullman has selected 50 stories from the Brothers Grimm wide selection of fairy tales, some well known and some less well known. Pullman wrote an interesting introduction to fairy tales giving us a kind of in-depth insight into a brief history of fairy tales and its origins.

The stories are relatively short, which gives a nice taster of each fairy tale and I like that at the end of each story, Pullman references where the Brothers head it from, some changes he made along with a short backstory of the tale and similar stories that had also inspired it.

It came to a surprise to me when I read an article to find out this is how fairy tales were originally written and that Disney had changed it to make it more children-friendly to watch. The original fairy tales are so much darker and gory than the clichéd sugarcoated Disney versions. These retellings were certainly not sugarcoated and didn’t steer away from being gory with the blood and killings. So sometimes when I read of the tales, my jaw literally wanted to fall open.

I think my favourite one from these retellings is probably Twelve Brothers. It’s about a King and Queen who has twelve sons but then one day the Queen becomes pregnant with her thirteenth child. The King said if it’s a girl, then he wants he wants the sons to all die and for the girl to inherit the kingdom. That’s a really insane decision for a King to make because in terms of who gets the throne, it’s usually the eldest son who is flavoured to inherit the kingdom. But anyway, there is a really nice outcome to this really short tale and that is why it is my favourite out of these retellings.

Crazy stories were Faithful Johannes and The Juniper Tree; they were just so insane and bizarre! There were gory aspects of it making me think what did I just read?! Reading these tales, I do notice a pattern in them. Some of them are very Cinderella-esque such as the stepmother who does not like her husband’s children and the stepsisters but there are also happily ever afters in these kinds of tales such as being saved by a prince.

Pullman is a storyteller, he takes inspiration from these fairy tales and writes each of them distinctively in his own way but staying true to the originality of the classic. There were some tales I really liked, some I found interesting, some I didn’t like so much and some that were silly. But it is refreshing to familiarise myself with these tales because it feels very enlightening and whimsical somewhat reading fairy tales or children’s books as a grown adult.

Side note: Also this is my first review of the year! And I call myself a bookworm? How embarrassing. Someone needs to get their priorities straight (that’s me).


3 out of 5 feathers




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