The Complete Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm Review 3/5

Overall Impression: An endless book of fabulous fantasy and childish imagination.9780099511441

Way back in February after completing a set of exams I decided to reward myself with a book spurge. The Complete Fairytales by The Brothers Grimm was one of those books. Since then, fairytales seem to have become some sort of trend, making appearances in both the TV and film industries. Which does make me wonder, why did I decide to pick up the Brothers Grimm this year? Was it really on a whim? Or did it get into my subconscious?
Another reason I chose this book is because two of the stories are on The Rory Gilmore Challenge (Rapunzel, and Snow White and Rose Red) and being the type of person who never likes to do things half way, I though hey, why not read ALL the Grimm fairytales?! 🙂

‘The stories have immense vitality…no punches are pulled…no emotion is unrepresented’
– Margaret Atwood

Wolves and grandmothers, the seven dwarfs, a goose made of gold…the folk tales collected by the Grimm brothers created an astonishingly influential imaginative world. However, this is also a world where a woman cooks her stepson and an evil queen dances to death in a pair of burning shoes. Violent, funny, disturbing and wise, these stories have intrigued both children and adults for generations.

I actually had to do some research before purchasing this book so I would like to warn anyone interested in reading the Grimm Fairytales to do the same. The reason for this is that there are a lot of books out there claiming to be the complete version, when in actual fact they are not. There are a lot of different volumes due to the fact that the Brothers Grimm didn’t publish them all in one go. The official number of tales is 210, so this is the number you should look for. My version however boasts on it’s back cover 279 stories, and claims to be the only complete edition available because it also includes The Omitted Tales, Selected Tales from the annotation of 1856, Jacob Grimm’s Tales, Published Tales and finally Selected Tales from the Posthumous Papers of the Brothers Grimm. These are extra bonus stories for those that are interested. So if your looking for the best book to go for, I would say this is definitely the one to pick! 🙂

The plot of each Grimm story is usually quite simple. It begins with either a Prince, Princess, or animal. They get into some sort of trouble – usually involving magic, and then spend the rest of the story trying to get out of trouble again. Sometimes this results in ‘happily ever after’. Other times…….not so much. That was one thing that surprised me actually. When I’ve heard people reference the Grimm Fairytales (usually from TV or film) they’ve always commented on how gruesome and horrendous they are compared to say, Disney. So when I began reading them I thought they would be more……well, more grim. Don’t get me wrong, there’s cannibalism, limbs being chopped off and people being put in barrels with nails sticking out…but it’s written in such a simplistic, matter of fact style that it doesn’t come across as very gruesome. Sounds strange I know! Maybe I should just worry that the youth of today such as myself have become desensitized? Kids these days, geez!

The very nature of fairytales is that they traditionally change with each telling as they are passed down through the generations, so I found this book really interesting to read, it was an opportunity to revisit the more original versions of famous stories that I heard when I was a child. What I discovered? Nearly every children’s story started off as a Grimm Fairytale. Snow White, Rumplestilskin, Little Red Riding Hood, The Princess and the Frog, even Puss in Boots! Some of the famous stories I knew about, but there were others I was complete surprised by! While some of the stories I read were similar to the ones I was originally told, others were barely recognizable, and had been reshaped and morphed into tales that are more commercial.

In The Complete Fairytales you can clearly see religious links and messages woven throughout the text, warning you to obey your elders, to not be lazy or greedy, to avoid the devil, and to do as others say or there will be dire consequences. It actively encourages selflessness, belief in God, kindness, and heart. Most of the religious messages it preaches appear to be Christian and probably reflect the views of the time. This makes me wonder if their obsession with evil stepmothers, who seem to appear in ever other story, are related to Catholic values on marriage and divorce. (Although don’t take my word on that, it is just a possible interpretation and could be completely wrong.)

The writing style of this book is a little difficult to comment on, especially as it is translated from German. It’s simplistic and doesn’t go into any form of detail describing the personalities of characters, or their surroundings like a normal novel or short story would. But it works. It’s very matter of fact and has a weirdly imaginative and childlike quality. It also often uses the rule of three I talked about in a previous post.
It was interesting for me to learn that the Brothers Grimm didn’t actually come up with all these stories themselves, they did not invent them which is what I assumed at the beginning. Instead they ‘obtained most of their oral and literary tales from educated members of the middle and aristocratic classes’ . Hmmph, there was me thinking they were creative geniuses coming up with all these stories! Although I’m sure they improved them with a little poetic license.

My enjoyment of this book fluctuated like the wind. At times I absolutely loved it and was completely wrapped up in the world of fairytales; running away from the big bad wolf with Little Red Riding Hood, hiding from Blue Beard, curiously peering into forbidden doors with the woodcutters daughter and dancing long into the night with the three princesses. Some of my favourite stories were Brother Lustig, Puss in Boots, The Long Nose ( A Pinocchio-esk story) Snow White and Rose Red, The Winter Rose (Beauty and the Beast) and King Ironhead. (Or at least, I was enjoying that one until the anti-feminist ending, what a letdown!)
But at other times I wanted to throw it across the room. The thing was just so freaking big! Over 1000 pages. I started reading this in February people! That means it took me around 6 months to read, and I tell you what, it felt like 6 months too. I even started to resent it a little bit because I felt like it was restricting my reading. The thing is, I don’t really have an issue with long books. I think it was mainly to do with the fact that it was repetitive. I lot of the stories overlapped or were very similar, and although I really enjoyed them in small doses, reading them in big chunks wasn’t very enjoyable like it would be with a novel. Overall I did enjoy it, and it was a very interesting experience, but boy was it hard work too!

I would recommend this book to fantasy or fairytale lovers either male or female, who are interested in learning more about the original sources that they came from. I would also recommend it to people interested in analyzing the moral messages within them. I’m not sure if I would suggest reading them to children; some are appropriate, others aren’t, but the female representations are also questionable due to the time period they were written in. If you want to read them then I would encourage you to do so, but beware, this book is not for the faint hearted.

I will leave you with 10 things I learnt from the The Complete Fairytales by the Brothers Grimm:

1.) Beware. All stepmothers are evil.

2.) Not to open forbidden doors. Curiosity killed the cat.

3.) There are an abnormal amount of people named Hans in the world.

4.) The gamblers of the world were created when a man with magic playing cards (rigged so he would always win) was kicked out of heaven shattering his soul which worked its way into many gamblers who are still alive to this day.

5.)  Eating a four-leafed clover will make you so sharp minded that you will be able to see through any deception.

6.) Always bet on the third child, even if they are a ‘simpleton’

7.)  If you’re in trouble, turn yourself into a flower or a lake.

8.) Being a tailor seems to be a favorable profession.

9.) To defeat a wolf: Cut open it’s belly, fill it with stones, sew up it’s belly. (Yeahhh this is all kinds of crazy troll logic this one)

10.) Be nice to everyone you meet, even if they are a frog, bear, or old man. They could be a witch or a handsome prince in disguise.


Writing Style: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Character Development: Kind of not relevant with this one. 1/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes, but with a health warning! LOL.

Overall: 3/5

Image Source
Book Cover http://www.booktopia.com.au/

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32 thoughts on “The Complete Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm Review 3/5

  1. Interesting, I never knew how many stories there were, nor how many fairytales originate from that book.

    Filling a wolf’s belly up with stones, I remember that, but not the actual story. I can even remember the illustrations from the book I read it in. Weird.

    Was there a story about a magical porridge pot, that just produced endless amounts of porridge?

    How’s the cold?

    • Haha yeah neither did I until I looked it up, I couldn’t believe there were so many!

      There are actually several stories with the wolfs belly being filled with stones, probably around 10ish. The most famous of course, being Little Red Riding Hood. 🙂 I just find the logic of that one hilarious.

      Nope, didn’t come across a porridge pot one although it vaguely rings a bell, I might have heard that one during my childhood at some point!

      Not much better I’m afraid, but thanks for asking. 🙂 At least it’s meant I’ve had the oppotunity to post more on the ol’ blog!

  2. Very interesting and informative review. I new knew how many Grimm stories there were and I too thought that they made them up themselves. I’ll probably read it myself now, but maybe not all at once.

    I found a four leaf clover once, a shame I didn’t eat it 😛

    • Thanks mandarox 🙂 Because it was such a long book I had a long time to ponder what I was going to say in the review teehee! 🙂
      Ohh, well I’m glad I’m not the only one that was in the dark about that, I thought maybe it was just me that didn’t know. Good luck if you decide to attempt it, and yeah, small doses a bit each day is definitely the best recommened amount, any more and the fairies might cart you off ha ha! 🙂

      Ohh dang! That’s a shame, if only you had known. I’ve always searched for four leaf clovers but never been able to find one, you must be lucky!

  3. Awesome review, I’m glad you enjoyed bits of it even though it started getting annoying. I also love your analysis on why they make step mothers evil!
    I had no idea they had written so much, they were certainly busy during their lifetimes!

    • Why thank you Summer! 🙂 I was quite pleased with how it came out, especially since I have a cold at the moment haha. Yeah me too, if I didn’t enjoy any of it then it would have been full on torture, I’m not sure if I would have been able to complete it if that was the case.

      Haha, thanks! It was just an informed guess, I have no idea if it’s right, but I think it’s a pretty cool idea. 🙂

      • Haha, you’ve definitely done well considering! Damn colds are such a nuisance! It’s a shame that they’re so repetitive though, the world of fairytales is so intriguing.

        That’s the good thing about it though, it doesn’t have to be right it just has to make sense! And your view makes perfect sense, and it’s insightful 🙂

      • Grrr I know, it’s not the worse one I’ve ever had, but it just won’t GO haha. I’ve had it over a week now -_-

        Very true! Haha thanks. 🙂

  4. I actually wanted to ask for the ISBN but I didn’t have in mind that the original language is German, so I should better read it in my native language anyway (I’ll have a look at your goodreads otherwise, I might find the German one)! Also I giggled about the name “Hans”, it has been a very popular name at that time… it’s ridiculous how many old people are named Hans here. After reading your review, I really want to read those fairytales – one by one, not all at the same time – now. Argh.

    • Ooooh it would be really interesting to read the German version! I bet that it would be much better in it’s native language. I expect at least some things won’t have translated as well. Feel free to take a look at my goodreads if it helps. 🙂

      Haha, really?? I thought maybe it was just in the book! How strange… I wonder if it has any important significance or if people just went though a phase when they really liked it! 😛

      Haha well I’m glad to have sparked your interest. I hope you enjoy them if you end up reading them!

      • Well there are some names which made me laugh in English, like “Rumpelstilzchen” – Rumpelstiltskin hahaha.. it’s not even funny for you but I had a good laugh today because of it 😀 But it’s always the same, one should read the book in its original language..
        I’ll definitely let you know, I managed to find the right book with all the 210 stories in it and ordered it just now!
        Naaa, I don’t think so. It’s like Joseph, it has been really popular at some point but now people make fun of this name 😛 I could try to figure out what it means, but I don’t know right now 😀
        Thanks again for your review! 🙂

      • Haha, it’s funny you mention that one actually, that story was in the book twice, one time spelt Rumpelstiltskin in the main story section, and in the added bonus part it was spelt Rumpelstilzchen, I was wondering about that! So thanks for the info. Haha, I’m glad it entertained you anyway! 🙂 Yeah I agree, sometimes I wish I could learn another language just so I could read the story in it’s original form, but that would be a bit excessive LOL. 😛

        Ohh cool! Glad you managed to find it! Maybe you should do a blog posts on all the weird translations.

        No problem, it twas my pleasure!

    • Thanks! 🙂 You know that is a very good point, they don’t even once mention an evil stepfather, it’s always stepmothers. Double standards haha!

      Thanks for commenting, I hadn’t thought of that. 🙂

  5. I have this but I never got around to reading it. I think I started to get bored after the first couple of stories.

    Also an interesting point in relation to all step mothers being evil, in one of my english classes a professor brought up that in many fairy tales (the more modern ones, so I don’t know if this holds true for Grimm’s) the real mother was dead and the step mother was evil and the father, not matter how useless was benevolent and liked. This apparently had many implications with how children see their step mothers. They have to prove themselves to this new woman, is she going to take the place of their real mother, etc. Also it has a sexist undertone because then the women tend to be the evil one’s in the families and the father’s not.

    But I rather like the idea that you have. I hadn’t thought of it.

    Also based on this review, this book will probably be sitting on my shelf untouched for a long time.

    P

    • Really? That is very interesting. 🙂 I think that probably is true of the Grimm fairytales as well, not all of them are ones where the mother has died, but certainly some of them are, and in others it is just not mentioned. It’s almost such an obvious explenation I feel silly for not thinking of it! Of course they are going to see the new mother with potential aggression and resentment, they will probably feel that they are trying to take the place of the mother. Thanks for the insight! 🙂
      I did definitely notice the sexist undertones, but luckily it didn’t really bother me too much while I was reading because I was taking into account the date that they were written.
      Haha thanks, whether it is true or not is another matter. But it is a possibility. 🙂

      I don’t blame you, it’s a beast of a book, and not one to take on lightly! it is still worth a read though so I hope you eventually get around to it.

  6. I downloaded this free on my kindle and have read a few. My favourite is Goose Girl, because it isn’t a very common fairytale like Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood but I still remember reading it as a child.

    • Ohhh cool, I hope you enjoy it as you make your way through it! 🙂
      Yeah, I really enjoyed that aspect of it, uncovering great stories that are less well known and haven’t got the same publicity.
      Enjoy your reading. 🙂

  7. This sounds really interesting from the standpoint of the history of storytelling- but it also sounds like quite a slog in terms of reading. I remember my dad trying to read my brothers and sisters and I some bits of it, but we never really got very far, in part due to the gruesomeness and in part because we just got bored (given that we got through Treasure Island at a really young age, I think it was more the latter than the former). I found your guess at the stepmother thing interesting, though one thing I do recall is that most of the time in fairytales the real mother has died, in which case it would be fine to remarry. Also the Brothers Grimm did most of their work in the 1800’s, after the Protestant Reformation, and by that point Germany was already a predominatly Protestant country. Though I have no idea at what point divorce became widespread in Protestantism, so it’s possible the remarriage stigma still applied. Now I want to go and look this stuff up… which is a sign of a good review, I think, it made me want to know more 🙂 Congrats on getting through this, by the way!

    • Haha yeah, I think that sums it up perfectly actually; an interesting slog. I am glad I decided to read it though!
      Ohh really? Introduced to great literature from a young age then! 🙂 I’m not suprised to be honest, there are some real gems in the book but also a lot of very average, and boring ones as well. I’ve never read Treasure Island, strangely it’s not one that’s ever particularly piqued my interest, and I’ve never really gotten on very well with sea/water related books for some strange reason…

      Ahh yes, I think that is what psharma3 was talking about above. Most of the time they have died, although not always, I can’t believe that fact just went straight over my head. The explenation I mentioned just came to me randomly as I was writing the review, and that thought just didn’t even register, so thanks for telling me! Interesting point about the Protestant Reformation, I knew about it, (good ol’ GCSE R.S you served me well) but I didn’t remember the date. That may well discount it, although I would also argue that the fairytales were passed down generations, so if they had more Catholic’s before that (???) then the stories could have still originated from those beliefs. Although as fairytales change as they are passed down the stories could have changed since then anyway! Either way, I’m sure your suggestion is more likely, I’m not that knowledgable on the subject. Coh! Gets confusing does it? I’m sure many people have dedicated there careers to analysing Fairytales, and I bet Freud would have had a field day with them!

      Haha thanks! I’m glad it got you interested. 🙂 I have to admit, I’ve never felt quite so happy to put a book back on my shelf!

      • We got lucky. And I have to admit I love Treasure Island though that book is really violent for the age I had it read to me (I was 7 or 8); it features a boatload (pun unintended) of deaths, all but two of which are violent, gun fights, alcoholism, knifefights, half-crazed marooned pirates- and it was completely and utterly awesome. It is really old, and I can see why it might not be for everyone, but my goodness I love that book 😀

        The Protestant Reformation I think took place in the 1600’s *checks wikipedia* Okay scratch that, I’m off by a century; it was 1517 when the 95 Theses were posted. So it’s definitely possible there were still undertones, though again, the mother is usually dead in those stories. I wonder if, since the stories tended to come from upper classes, whether it was possibly a reflection of a desire to keep family bloodlines pure? I can’t even imagine what Freud’s reaction to them would be, especially since so many of them are *cough* edited. I think his head would explode at the originals.

        Hey, it’s something you can now brag about when you need to impress book snobs 🙂 Always a bright side.

      • Really? I never particularly associated it with violence, although now I think about it I suppose it is. All my knowledge about Treasure Island comes from a film adaption that was in parts, and I don’t think it was a very good adaption either because I didn’t enjoy it at all. I’m sure the book is better! They always are. I might get round to reading it one day. Your love of it has intrigued me.

        Ooooh research (if wikipedia can be named such) yeah the date still doesn’t ring any bells to me, I think I must have repressed that part of my lessons LOL, but hey, at least I remember something! Teehee.

        That’s a really good point and it makes a lot of sense. There certainly are underlying themes related to bloodline and class. For instance there are lots of stories where a ‘simpleton’ wants to win the hand of a princess so is given a task to complete. But when he does the king is still not satisfied so goes against his promise forcing him to complete more tasks because he believes he is unworthy.
        Ha! I know, I saw that they were edited, it immediately made me curious, I kind of wish they had kept them how they were! It would have been a much more true representation.

  8. Well by Jove, I am thoroughly impressed! Brilliant review with some excellent commentary on relevant social themes.
    I totally understand what you mean when you say the writing is so matter-of-fact that it ceases to be gruesome. Shall we chop up some body parts and cook them in the stew? Yeah sure, why not. 😉
    Turn yourself into a lake or a flower if you’re in trouble: now why didn’t I think of that??!!!!

    • Hehee thank you muchly! 🙂 You make it sound much more intelligent than I felt when I was writing it LOL.

      Well I’m glad I’m not the only one, it made sense as I started to write it, but when I was giving examples I was starting to think hey, these people are going to think I’m a crazy person, nails in a barrel sound pretty grim! But yeah, strangely un-grusome.

      Exactly! I’ll just break out the magic pixie dust and bam, no problemo! 😛

  9. I remember my father buying dozens of The Brothers Grimm books many years ago but as a kid I had little interest in reading them. We’ve since given them away and I am kicking myself I didn’t hold on to them. The covers were beautiful and intricate and I would love to read them now!
    So there are lots of Hans huh? What’s that about? 🙂

    • Ohhh they sound great! I love that feeling when you just fall in love with a bookcover, if I find one that I love it doesn’t even matter what the story is about, I just have to buy it. 🙂

      Haha yeah, around half of the stories have characters named Hans in, very strange!

      I hope you enjoyed your holiday. 🙂

    • No problem! I’m glad I could help. 🙂
      Fairytales are great, they have such a unique style of writing. I hope you enjoy reading it. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting Laura!

  10. I really like that you pointed out that often times we assume the Grimm Brothers invented a tale, when really they may have just been the first ones to compile it into a manuscript from oral traditions (I was shocked to find tales like Cinderella and Beauty and The Beast in my version, for example, because I know those tales are French in origin). I’ll have to go check my anthology to see how many tales it boasts since there are so many versions!

    • Ha, yes! That was a bit of a shock to me when I first started reading. I had assumed they were their original tales. Let that be a lesson kids, never assume! 😛 Having said that, once I did discover they hadn’t come up with them it made a lot more sense. I didn’t realise Cinderella and Beauty were originally French, fun bit of trivial there.
      Yes, who would of thought fairytales were so complicated! Looking forward to reading more of your new feature. 🙂

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