“Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm,” then, is effectively an album in which a gifted contemporary composer covers classic songs. As Mr. Pullman notes, an enormous relief and pleasure “comes over the writer who realizes that it’s not necessary to invent: the substance of the tale is there already, just as the sequence of chords in a song is there ready for the jazz musician.” And his repertory is undeniably first-rate. These stories, honed through generations of tellers, are the survivors of literary evolution. They are here because they work.
Recognizing this, Mr. Pullman keeps his touch light, lending the stories a plain-spoken, casual voice and respecting the strange transformations, reversals of fortune and patterns of three that give them their power. He concludes each tale with a brief analytical note — praising or criticizing the story, pulling out a piquant detail, sometimes suggesting improvements. This is shoptalk, essentially — an expert narrator pointing out the storytelling triumphs or missteps of his forebears — and it is fascinating.
From an excellent New York Times piece on Philip Pullman’s new fairy tale collection. Highly recommended.
One response to “NYT on ‘Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm,’ by Philip Pullman – NYTimes.com”
Amanda Katz’s article on Pullman is excellent but why is it that she, like other reviewers, fails to mention how dark and brutal the Grimm Tales really are…were they actually read by children in the 19th century…are nightmares a commonplace result for today’s children reading early versions?