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9780670024971_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewed by Jessa Larsen

If you love traditional story telling of the fairy tale variety, you are going to adore this collection put together by none other than Philip Pullman. Author of His Dark Materials trilogy, (of which The Golden Compass is probably the best known as it was made into a major motion picture), Pullman has done it again by collecting not only the most traditionally well-known stories, but all the tales written down and passed along by the Brothers Grimm. The stories are simplistic, easy to remember and get straight to the point which makes them all the more fun to read (or pass along yourself to whomever you might want to entertain).

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale collection has been well known and beloved for centuries now, but as with most traditional stories, they’ve lost bits and pieces along the way. In this collection, the most commonly told versions have been compiled and information that may be typically missing has been put back into place which makes the stories that much more enjoyable. Pullman has also put in notations at the end of each tale to explain where he got the version, why he went with that version, alternate versions that exist, and a little bit of the fun history behind why it may have been written and/or told to past audiences. I thoroughly enjoyed these beautiful fairy tales and had a great time reading them as bedtime stories to my children. My favorites in the entire collection have to be Hans-my-Hedgehog and Godfather Death.

In Hans-my-Hedgehog, a farmer and his wife have troubles bearing a child and when they finally do, it turns out that the baby is half boy, half hedgehog. After initially trying to raise the boy like a proper child, they fling their hands in the air and vow to be rid of him. One day Hans-my-Hedgehog tells the farmer that if only he buys him a set of bagpipes and shoes for his rooster, he’ll leave home and never return. The farmer is happy enough with this bargain and gets the bagpipes and shoes from the market. Hans-my-Hedgehog leaves home and takes up residence in the forest where eventually he meets with a king. In exchange for a favor, the king promises his daughter’s hand in marriage whilst silently telling himself that he’ll never have to follow through with it.

Soon after, another king comes riding through and promises the same thing, but with a bit more integrity. Hans-my-Hedgehog does both the promised favors and soon sets off to the first kingdom. Upon arrival, he reveals that he knew they had no intention of acting honorably and thus he doesn’t want to marry the princess of that kingdom. Hans-my-Hedgehog sets off for the second and more honorable kingdom and is promptly wed to the princess. After the ceremony, Hans-my-Hedgehog gives strict instructions for curing him of his hedgehog form. The king promptly does as he was asked and Hans is able to become a normal handsome boy and lives happily ever after with his beautiful bride.

In Godfather Death, a poor man’s wife has just given birth to their thirteenth child. The man doesn’t know what to do and promptly runs out into the road thinking he might benefit from naming the first person he sees as godfather. The first man he meets is God, but God gives to the rich and is cruel to the poor, so the poor man passes him over. The second man he meets is the Devil, but the Devil deceives people and leads them to sin. The third man he meets is Death. Death takes from the poor and takes from the rich. Everyone is equal in Death’s eyes, so the poor man names Death as godfather to his thirteenth child.

Death promised that he will make this child, a son, rich and famous so when the child grows up, Death gives him instructions on becoming a physician. He tells the boy that he will teach him well and when he is treating someone in poor health, Death will always be standing there by his side. If he stands at the patient’s head, the boy has to cure whatever ails them. But if Death stands at the foot of the bed, the patient is his and Death is NOT to be trifled with.

The boy becomes rich and famous as was promised, but one day the King falls ill. When the boy comes to treat him, Death is standing at the foot of the bed, but the boy simply cannot let the King die, so he defies Death and cures the King anyway. Death is very angry, but decides to let the boy have a second chance. Soon the princess falls ill and when the boy goes to treat her, Death is once again standing at the foot of the bed. The boy once again goes against Death’s orders and cures the princess. He tries to tell Death that he couldn’t help it and that he was in love, but Death looks at him very seriously and says, “Nobody cheats death”. And takes the boy instead. (This story isn’t meant to be amusing, but I found it to be rather humorous in a morbid way as typically fairy tales have happy endings whereas this one ended with a very simple “and then he died.”)

Philip Pullman did a phenomenal job of putting this collection together and I wouldn’t have picked anybody else to do the job. This is a must-have for anybody’s collection.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Viking Adult. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.