Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's original fairy tales, Puffin Books has created a beautiful volume of the tales in their original text; raw, unvarnished and (at times) quite horrific. We have become so used to sanitised and 'pretty' versions of these time honoured stories, that to read them in their original form can be rather shocking. We shy away from them now. (We CAN'T read these to the children... it might disturb them.) And the concept that these stories are not simply children's stories seems to have escaped us. Don't get me wrong. They ARE for children... but they are for adults as well. Grimm's Fairy Tales take us into the human psyche and teach us about human nature, behaviour and consequences. They remind to be aware of the world around us, and to be very careful in bargains... what are we willing to risk? These lessons are more easily absorbed by children, however; and I believe they need them now more then ever. They need to be able to imagine, escape and discern. Children need to be enabled to think creatively and see into the human heart at a very young age (which, incidentally, they do anyway.) And, as we grow up, we need to be reminded how to do these things. It's a matter of survival... which the Brothers Grimm remind us in every story.
The introduction by Cornelia Funke explains the appeal of these tales perfectly.
"Oh, she loved these stories, I hear you say. No! I was terrified by them! But they were irresistible, like a dark spell that echoed through my heart, dark and golden at the same time.....
....For me, Grimm's fairy tales know every secret of the human heart. They know about our fear and greed, but also about true friendship and unquestioning love. They know about the darkness of the world and about it's endless treasures. They are whispers from the past, where children could starve in the woods and where forests were dangerous places, but also filled with treasure and magic. Where animals could talk and people shift their shape whenever they wanted because they knew they were part of nature...something we easily forget these days...."
Like Cornelia (one of my favourite writers), I love fairy tales. To this day, they continue to terrify and teach and enlighten and remind me of what it means to be human; what it means to live in this world. And they allow escape into those magical forests, where I must be very clever and very observant if I expect to journey through successfully. I must think on my feet and take care not to make bad bargains. And upon returning to the real world, I carry these tales with me.

Einstein said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales."
C.S. Lewis was emphatic; "Some you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."

Why wait? Start today... and share them with your children without fear... well, maybe just a bit of fear... but you'll both be better for it.

p.s.: You might also want to check out Cornelia Funke's book Reckless. The lead characters, Jake and Will (sound familiar?) travel through a mirror to a land of featuring all the familiar fairy tale characters. (This book isn't for young children, however. Ages 13+, please.)

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