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Thursday, May 21, 2009

cover of 'The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm'

The things you can learn from fairy tales! For instance, in reading these stories I discovered:

  • Poor but beautiful peasant maidens who wish to marry well should get themselves cursed by an evil witch, and then they are bound to end up married to a king or a prince (although there may be some discomfort along the way)
  • Young kings shouldn't go hunting or wandering in forests, as they are bound to run across a witch and bad things will happen to them as a result
  • If a gnome, an animal, or a saint talks to you in the woods, it is best to be kind and generous to them
  • Naive, fearless simpletons will either end up rich, married to princesses and heirs to kingdoms; or they will trade away their wealth for something worthless
  • Saints and miracles intermix freely with magic
  • Things are more likely to end well for you if you are the youngest sibling of three

It was a lot of fun to read these stories. Some were mostly-familiar versions of well-known tales, others were unfamiliar stories with echoes of the more familiar fairy tales, and others were just strange. In some cases, reading the stories again gave me a new perspective on them. For instance, there is the story of the old fisherman who catches a fish, and when the fish tells him that he is an ensorceled prince, the old fisherman releases him and goes on his way. But his wife wants something, and there begins a succession of ever greater houses and palaces and positions of power until the wife finally wants to be like God, and the old fisherman and his wife end up in their hovel again. I had always thought this meant they had met the limits of the powerful prince-fish's patience, but re-reading it this time I saw an alternate interpretation-- perhaps the fish actually gave them what they had asked for; it's just that they-- and we-- understand so little of what it means to live like God.

I borrowed this book from Abiel a few years ago (actually swapped it for one of mine), and she moved away before we managed to trade books back! I enjoyed reading the stories over several months, just a few stories at a time so I could take them in slowly.

Title:The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimmm, Volume I
Author:Jack Zipes (translator)
Date published:1987
Genre:Fairy Tale
Number of pages:416
Notes:loan from Abiel; read over many months


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