Saturday, January 26, 2019

Grimm Tales for Young and Old - Philip Pullman

This book has been a fairly constant bedside companion for the last couple of months and has served as a helpful reminder that it's a good idea to question my prejudices every now again.

I'm not particularly a Philip Pullman fan, I read the Norther Lights trilogy when it came out along with my youngest sister who was firmly in the intended age bracket at the time. She loved them, I thought they were okay but nothing more than that, and I find his name in something more off putting than not. Still, I'd look at any version of the Grimm tales so I bought this, and now I've read it will happily admit I was wrong to be on the fence about Pullman.

With that in mind I'm writing this whilst willingly eating brussel sprouts for the first time in my life. They've never been a favourite, but I thought I'd give Anja Dunk's take on them (in sour cream with nutmeg and lemon zest) a go. Turns out they're pretty good too (though not as good as Pullman's take on the Grimm's), I'm doing well here.

'Grimm Tales for Young and Old' was the Sunday Times fiction book of the year when it came out back in 2012 so I'm a bit late to the party on this one (even when I bought this copy it sat around unread for a while) but it's now easily my favourite of the 3 versions I have.

It's a selection of fifty tales, and special because I think it would genuinely work for young(ish) and old. It's not as cleaned up as the picture book versions for children are now, or as pared back as the collections aimed at adults tend to be. Pullman adds his own embellishments as every proper story teller should - and this is the thing that I think every successful retelling of a myth or fairy tale should have - they feel as if they're meant to be spoken.

The other thing that makes this collection so good is that every story is followed by its type, source, similar stories from a variety of sources and traditions, and Pullman's own thoughts and notes about what he's done to them. It's the perfect mix of entertainment and scholarship.

It's a book that I bought ought of curiosity to add to a collection, but it's become a favourite that I've turned to again and again this winter when I couldn't settle on anything longer to read, or had a few minutes to fill, wanted to be reminded of favourite childhood stories, and more. It's also gently pushing me towards tackling some more of the collections I've gathered together.


  1. This has been sitting on my pile for too long! Glad you loved it.

  2. It's perfect for picking up in odd moments because nothing is more than a few pages long. The references to other tales of the same type is really helpful too, and I enjoyed Pullman's commentaries far more than I expected to, not least because he uses them to talk about the craft of story telling. Basically I got far more than I realised I was going to when I bought it.

  3. I like Mr. Pullman's writing, especially the stories of Lyra; I have the Northern Lights trilogy and the adjuncts which followed and find them captivating. I have tried to be seduced by his 'Victorian' melodramas but it didn't work. I was given the stories of the Brothers Grimm as a small child in the early 50s and they frightened me to death so I shall not be reading this iteration! But I am pleased that you have come around to enjoying Mr. Pullman!

    1. I know Pullman is the better writer but the reading enthusiasm I shared most with my sister was for Harry Potter, and whilst I enjoyed bits of the Lyra stories I coukd take or leave them. This collect on the other hand is exactly my cup of tea. It was Hans Christian Anderson who terrified me as a child. Still unsure about tackling his stories again,