Philip Pullman examines fairytales from a modern perspective – focusing on the ones used by the Grimm brothers in their collection.

We have all grown up with fairy tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty – thanks to countless books and re-tellings and of course Disney. But what Pullman examines is the background to these tales – where do they come from? When did they first appear?

But the stories (sorry for the pun) are considerably grimmer than what you might initially expect – filled with violence, horror and yes occasionally silly. They tell you more about the world and have morals about them that can be lost in translation.

Tales featured in the book includes: The Frog King, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Rapunzel  to name a few. All come with notes from Pullman about the quality of the story and any additions that could have been made.

While it is fascinating, after a while it does tend to become slightly repetitive and the tone can come across as pompous at times. However, the tales themselves flow nicely together and are surprisingly enjoyable to read – despite the dark nature of the stories.

It is fast and pacey to read – helped along  by the fact that each of the tales is pretty short and the way in which they are told is straight to the point with very little information apart from the event that takes place in the story and character descriptions are none existent so those who like their characters with a bit more life about them need to look elsewhere.

But that is the point as Pullman argues convincingly – it isn’t a novel but more like a brief summary of something that has happened to entertain children.

For those who love their fairy tales or even Disney – you might get a shock/reality check when you read these but it is a fascinating read that changes you perceptive of what a fairy tale really is.



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