I picked up The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales back in deep and dark January feeling in the mood for some dark short stories. The weather has remained quite dark and cold until recently, and I have taken my time over that period dipping in and out of this collection. It was interesting to start a book in deepest Winter tucked up in a blanket only to finish in Spring basking in the sun in my garden.
The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales consists of over 200 magical short stories. Some of which were easily recognisable, others had recognisable elements to them, whilst others I didn’t recognise at all. Those that I instantly recognised included Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin and The Twelve Dancing Princesses (there is some differences in their titles). While I was surprised to find there was not one story that completely matched up with Cinderella or Snow White. It appears instead they were created later from a mixture of elements from several stories which I thought was interesting. One of my preconceptions going into reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales was that they would be a lot darker than the modern versions we think of today; mainly because of Disney. This is not the impression I had on finishing the collection though. There was a lot of death and killing in these stories but no real detail was given thus I never felt particularly chilled by them. I just came away with a less positive feeling than I would from the modern counterparts.
If you go into Grimm’s Fairy Tales seeking strong female characters you are to be sorely disappointed. There are only three types of women in all of the stories. The first is of course the witch and/or evil mother who may prosper at first but will ultimately meet a sticky end. Secondly there is the jealous and usually ugly sister, step-sister, and/or love rival these also usually meet an unkind end. And then finally there is the beautiful maid or princess who will finally prosper their only reward being to get married off. I’ve never seen myself as a particularly fervent feminist but after 200+ stories even my patience grew rather thin. Male characters are slightly better as they have a lot more options. They get to be soldiers, adventurers, knights, Kings, Princes, skilled tradesmen, sorcerers, holy men, thieves and many more roles. The definition between the good and bad men for me though was a bit blurred. On the whole the bad men were shown as murderous and deceitful, while the good men as brave and true. Yet sometimes men hailed as heroes at the end of their story displayed all of these traits. I think Grimm’s Fairy Tales give off very confusing moral messages. If I had children not sure I would be happy for them to read this version.
I have wanted to read Grimm’s Fairy Tales for sometime now. So when I saw Acheron Press’s digital version The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales offered for free for my Kindle I snapped up a copy instantly. I had never read any of the original stories before so had little idea what to expect. I was not surprised to find the stories were archaic in style and sentence structure, and contained many prejudices pertaining to class, gender and race of the time they were written in. These are faults that I can overlook because these are faults I expect from such an old work. I actually enjoyed reading these stories not just for their magical and surreal elements but because of the social commentary embedded within them. The faults that stuck for me were the mixed moral messages the stories gave off and that most of them left me with a decidedly negative feeling. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read the original stories but I am happy to return to the modern versions I remember fondly from my childhood.
The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales was an imperfect but fascinating read. I recommend to those interested in reading classic fairy tales. This is my 13th read off my Classics Club list. I am now looking forward to reading the collection of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales which is waiting for me on my Kindle.
Have you read Grimm’s Fairy Tales?
I am also counting The Complete Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales as Fairy Tale for Once Upon a Time VII hosted by Carl V @ Stainless Steal Droppings.