Monday, February 22, 2010

24th February Wilhelm Grimm (1786 - 1859)

I much prefer the bleaker tales from the Grimm Brothers to the more romanticised versions from Perrault. I really like the Grimm version of Cinderella which doesn't have a fairy godmother, but instead has a hazel tree that she planted as a twig on her mother's grave. As Cinderella weeps on the grave, the tree grows. Not many of the Cinderella picture books use this version. There is only one version in my library and it is in tatters, out of print and thus irreplaceable. In the Grimm version the sisters mutilate their feet, in an attempt to fit their feet into the glass slipper. I don't need this grim detail as much, but the Grimm Brothers do need to be congratulated on their diligent collecting and recording of traditional tales, even if their intended audience wasn't children. Imagine a childhood without Rumplestiltskin, Rapunzel, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Snow White and Rose Red.

A collection of ten of the Grimm fairytales that I like is The McElderry Book of Grimms' Fairy Tales retold by Saviour Pirotta and illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark. And, Michael Morpurgo's Hansel and Gretel also illustrated by Emma, is an amazing retelling of the traditional story with lots of added thematic depth for discussion.

It is often hard sharing fairytales with the children I teach because they are very quick to tell you that they know them, but when I delve a little, too often their way of knowing is through a Disney film or a television cartoon. Fairytales are an important source of rich book vocabulary. Where else will they read words such as 'gown', 'slipper', 'leagues', 'spindle', 'cobbler', 'thorns' and 'enchanted'? And, if they don't have a thorough introduction to fairytales how will they enjoy books such as The Sisters Grimm, spoofs such as those by Ann Jungman and Allan Ahlberg, the twisted tales of John Scieszka and the myriad of modern fairy tales?

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