Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some Bargain Books: Myth, Vampires and the Calendar

The Song of Achilles (Enhanced Edition), by Madeline Miller is temporarily $3.99 in ebook format. This edition is enhanced for Fires but will deliver a regular book to the standard Kindles, is my understanding.

Book description:

Enter the world of Homer's ancient Greece with the enhanced e-book edition of The Song of Achilles. This edition lets you further engage with this compelling story through video interviews with Madeline Miller and Gregory Maguire, bestselling author of the Wicked series, clips from the audio book at the start of each chapter, an illustrated map, and a pop-up gallery featuring over 40 images and descriptions of the characters, armor, and ships found in the book.

The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. "The best of all the Greeks"—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles' mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller's page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

Please note that due to the large file size of these special features this enhanced e-book may take longer to download then a standard e-book.

Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly is temporarily $2.99. This is a vampire novel of a very different sort, first of a three book series, and a cult classic with its fans. Thought I would throw it onto today's list for Halloween.

Publishers Weekly review:

In her hardcover debut, Hambly will give Ann Rice a run for her money. Higher praise than this we rarely see in our little literary mag!! Got to keep the readers interested, eh what?  Oxford professor James Ahser, once an agent for the British government, is forced to help the vampires of Edwardian London, who are being destroyed one by one through exposure to sunlight as they lie sleeping in their coffins. If she does not oblige, his young wife, Lydia, will perish as have many other vampire victims over the years. Accompanied by one of the oldest of the vampires, Simon Ysidro, who has lived in London since the time of Elizabeth I, Asher begins his investigations, learning about the life and culture of vampires. Meanwhile, Lydia, who is one of the few women physicians of the era, prowls through old property records and medical journals attempting to find other clues. Asher comes to suspect that the killer is a vampire, an unusual one who can live in the light of day, and Lydia develops a reasonable physiology that would account for the ability. Hambly's examination of vampirism is beautifully detailed, with a fine, realistic background and strong sense of atmosphere. Her characters are finely honed, particularly Don Ysidro, the vampire with a sense of noblesse oblige.

The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar by Michael Judge looks interesting and a small risk at $1.24.

Book description:
Did you know that the ancient Romans left 60 days of winter out of their calendar, considering these two months a dead time of lurking terror and therefore better left unnamed? That they had a horror of even numbers, hence the tendency for months with an odd number of days? That robed and bearded druids from the Celts stand behind our New Year's figure of Father Time? That if Thursday is Thor's day, then Friday belongs to his faithful wife, Freya, queen of the Norse gods? That the name Easter may derive from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, whose consort was a hare, our Easter bunny? Three streams of history created the Western calendar-from the East beginning with the Sumerians, from the Celtic and Germanic peoples in the North, and again from the East, this time from Palestine with the rise of Christianity. Michael Judge teases out the contributions of each stream to the shape of the calendar, to the days and holidays, and to associated lore. In them he finds glimpses of a way of seeing before the mechanical time of clocks, when the rhythms of man and woman matched those of earth and sky, and the sacred was born.

Happy Halloween!

by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

Happy Halloween! I hope your day is fun and safe and just scary enough... I was in London last Halloween where the holiday was celebrated but just not on the same level as here in the states. We enjoyed watching revelers head off to parties in full costumes on the tube and as they walked by our delicious dinner at Ask in Kensington. The Cereal Killer (a cape covered with mini-cereal boxes) was our favorite.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Book: From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairytales by Sara Maitland

From the Forest: A Search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairytales by Sara Maitland is released today.

Book description:

Fairy tales are one of our earliest cultural forms, and forests one of our most ancient landscapes. Both evoke similar sensations: At times they are beautiful and magical, at others spooky and sometimes horrifying. Maitland argues that the terrain of these fairy tales are intimately connected to the mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils.

With each chapter focusing on a different story and a different forest visit, Maitland offers a complex history of forests and how they shape the themes of fairy tales we know best. She offers a unique analysis of famous stories including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretal, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, and Sleeping Beauty. Maitland uses fairy tales to explore how nature itself informs our imagination, and she guides the reader on a series of walks through northern Europe’s best forests to explore both the ecological history of forests and the roots of fairy tales. In addition to the twelve modern re-tellings of these traditional fairy tales, she includes beautiful landscape photographs taken by her son as he joined her on these long walks.

Beautifully written and impeccably researched, Maitland has infused new life into tales we’ve always thought we’ve known.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Book: The Fairy-Tale Princess: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest by Wendy Jones and Su Blackwell


The Fairy-Tale Princess: Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest by Wendy Jones and Su Blackwell is released today. It was released earlier this month in the UK. There are no preview images for Twelve Dancing Princesses, but I can't wait to see them after loving what is offered here.

Book description:

This is a beautiful collection of seven fairy tales — Sleeping Beauty,The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White, The Princess and the Pea, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses — organized around the theme of the fairytale princess and retold in a fresh and lyrical voice by Wendy Jones. They are illustrated with glorious papercut sculptures specially created by Su Blackwell.

The characters — and the kingdoms they inhabit — emerge from the pages through a series of exquisite paper sculptures. Each tale has a unique visual flavor: while Sleeping Beauty is blue and dreamy, The Princess and the Pea is green and summery.

The magic and otherworldliness of traditional fairytale collections meet glorious, contemporary paper constructions in The Fairtytale Princess, which makes a charming addition to the shelf of bedtime stories.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bargain Ebook: Don't Breathe a Word with a Special Excerpt by Jennifer McMaho

Don't Breathe a Word with a Special Excerpt: A Novel (Promo e-Books) by Jennifer McMahon is temporarily bargain priced in a special ebook edition for $3.99.

Book description:

On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.

Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.

In this special, limited time edition of Don't Breathe a Word, you'll receive a bonus excerpt from Jennifer McMahon's new novel, The One I Left Behind, available January 8, 2013.

Don't Breathe a Word is a dark and twisty tale in which one couple finds themselves in a seemingly supernatural web of fairies that links them to a young girl's disappearance 15 years ago.

Scary Tales: The Cannibal Innkeeper

Here is today's scary tale, excerpted from Bluebeard Tales From Around the World (Surlalune Fairy Tale Series).

The Cannibal Innkeeper


ONCE there was a poor orphan girl who worked as a servant at the house of a rich man. Her dearest companion was a little dog that her parents had given her before they died.

One day the chieftain of a robber band, disguised as an ordinary servant, came to the rich man’s house and asked the girl to marry him. Sensing something sinister about him, the girl rejected the suitor’s advances, so, with the assistance of his fellow robbers, he carried her away by force.

Now a prisoner in the robber’s house, the girl still refused to marry him, in spite of his friendly words, his threats, and his abuse. Finally he gave up his attempts to win her love, and sold her to a wild and cruel innkeeper.

Now this innkeeper would rob travelers, kill them, cut them into pieces, and serve their cooked flesh to his other guests. He terrorized the poor girl by showing her the valuables he had stolen from his victims, the room where he murdered them, and the weapons he used for his wicked deeds. Then he locked her and her little dog in an adjoining room.

Soon afterward he brought in a little boy whom he had captured in the woods gathering berries. He cut off the boy’s head and cut him into pieces. Then he forced the girl to cook the boy’s flesh and serve it to the innkeeper’s guests.

Some time later the innkeeper brought in a very old woman, ugly and wrinkled, and nothing but skin and bones. Perhaps wanting to fatten her up for later, he locked her in the room with the girl and her dog.

After their captor had left, the old woman told the girl that the cannibal innkeeper was her own son, and that she, disguised so well that he could not recognize her, had come to punish him for his wickedness. Skilled in witchcraft, the old woman told the girl how she could escape. She would first have to kill her little dog and eat a piece of its heart. The girl did this, and then the old woman rubbed some ointment all over the girl’s body, which transformed her into a duck.

A little later the wild man opened the door, and the duck flew over his head, escaping into the open. The innkeeper ran from room to room looking for the girl, and his mother uttered a magic curse that caused the house to collapse upon him, killing him at once.

The girl turned around and saw the heap of ruins, but as the old woman had not told her how she could again become a human being, she has remained a duck to this very day.


Abstracted from

Gaster, M. “Why Does the Duck Feed on Refuse? The Story of the Cannibal Innkeeper.” Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories. London: Folk-Lore Society, 1915. no. 85, pp. 259-61.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scary Tales: The Silk Nightcap

Here is today's scary tale, excerpted from Bluebeard Tales From Around the World (Surlalune Fairy Tale Series).

The Silk Nightcap

The following is excerpted from Charles Dickens’s “The Holly Tree” originally published in 1855 in his Christmas Stories. This excerpt contains two brief stories and the second is a Robber Bridegroom tale.

MY FIRST impressions of an Inn dated from the Nursery; consequently I went back to the Nursery for a starting-point, and found myself at the knee of a sallow woman with a fishy eye, an aquiline nose, and a green gown, whose specialty was a dismal narrative of a landlord by the roadside, whose visitors unaccountably disappeared for many years, until it was discovered that the pursuit of his life had been to convert them into pies. For the better devotion of himself to this branch of industry, he had constructed a secret door behind the head of the bed; and when the visitor (oppressed with pie) had fallen asleep, this wicked landlord would look softly in with a lamp in one hand and a knife in the other, would cut his throat, and would make him into pies—for which purpose he had coppers, underneath a trap-door, always boiling—and rolled out his pastry in the dead of the night. Yet even he was not insensible to the stings of conscience, for he never went to sleep without being heard to mutter, “Too much pepper!” which was eventually the cause of his being brought to justice.

I had no sooner disposed of this criminal than there started up another of the same period, whose profession was originally housebreaking; in the pursuit of which art he had had his right ear chopped off one night, as he was burglariously getting in at a window, by a brave and lovely servant-maid (whom the aquiline-nosed woman, though not at all answering the description, always mysteriously implied to be herself). After several years, this brave and lovely servant-maid was married to the landlord of a country Inn; which landlord had this remarkable characteristic, that he always wore a silk nightcap, and never would on any consideration take it off. At last, one night, when he was fast asleep, the brave and lovely woman lifted up his silk nightcap on the right side, and found that he had no ear there; upon which she sagaciously perceived that he was the clipped housebreaker, who had married her with the intention of putting her to death. She immediately heated the poker and terminated his career, for which she was taken to King George upon his throne, and received the compliments of royalty on her great discretion and valour.


Dickens, Charles. “The Holly-Tree Inn.” Household Words: Christmas Stories 1851-1858. London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, n.d.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bargain Ebook: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George is bargain priced at $1.99 in ebook format today only on Amazon (US).

Book description:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celia’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing to itself. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one - other than Celia, that is - takes time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and reportedly killed, it’s up to Celia with her secret knowledge of the Castle’s many twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

Scary Tales: The Lonton Lass

Here is today's scary tale, excerpted from Bluebeard Tales From Around the World (Surlalune Fairy Tale Series).

The Lonton Lass

THE facts of the story are simply these. About 90 years since, a young woman at Lonton had a lover, who first deceived and then resolved to murder her. Under pretence of arranging for their immediate marriage, he persuaded her to meet him in Park End Wood.

On the night appointed he repaired to the place and digged a grave. She slipped out of her parents’ house, when all was quiet, and sped on to the place of meeting.

The farmer, however, at Park End, was greatly disturbed that night by dreams. He dreamt twice that he saw an open grave and a spade sticking in the soil—in a wood near his house. And so excited was his imagination that he could not think of remaining in bed. He arose, and called up his young men, and ordered them to furnish themselves with bludgeons and accompany him into the wood. They all went, and sure enough there was the open grave and the spade. Their horror and astonishment were inexpressible.

They searched the wood, and beat about for some time among the bushes, but could neither see nor hear anybody. After some time had been spent in searching and watching, they returned. And on the old road not far from the farm-house, one of them discerned an object approaching. They stood aside. The object came up. A young woman!

“Hollo!” said the farmer, “whither are you going so late tonight?”

“And what is that to you?” she replied; “surely I am old enough to know my own business, without having to give an account of it to you.”

“Come, come,” said the farmer. “I know now, I think, who you are, and guess your errand; pray let me tell you what has caused us to be astir.”

She would not believe. They took her to the place, and at sight of the grave and spade she fainted. The whole party then returned to Park End, and the poor hapless girl, after telling her story of the matter, was only too glad to remain all night under the protection of him, who through his remarkable and providential dream, had been the means of saving her life.



A great many years ago, there lived at Park End, a dreamer of remarkable dreams. At the period to which I refer, the farm-house stood more to the north than at present, but still on the outskirt of that part of the ancient forest of Teesdale, within which a free chase was granted by King John, Feb. 21, 1201, to Lord Henry Fitz-Hervey, an ancestor of the Lords Fitzhugh. The road from Laythkyrke Bridge to Holick, or, as it is now called the old road, ran through Lonton, which was formerly a considerable hamlet—past Stepends, along the south bank of the Tees, very close to the river. . . .


Gutch, Mrs. [Eliza], editor. Examples of Printed Folk-Lore Concerning the North Riding of Yorkshire, York and the Ainsty. County Folk-Lore Vol. II. London: David Nutt, 1901.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bargain Ebook: Stork by Wendy Delsol

Stork (Stork Trilogy) by Wendy Delsol is temporarily $2.99 in ebook format. This is the first book in the trilogy which draws from The Snow Queen as well as other fairy tales and folklore.

Book description:

Oh baby! A hip heroine discovers that she has the ability to decide who gets pregnant in this witty YA blend of romance and the supernatural. Sixteen-year-old Katla has just moved from Los Angeles to the sticks of Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, she learns to her horror that she’s a member of an ancient order of women who decide to whom certain babies will be born. Add to that Wade, the arrogant football star whom Katla regrettably fooled around with, and Jack, a gorgeous farm boy who initially seems to hate her. Soon Katla is having freaky dreams about a crying infant and learns that, as children, she and Jack shared a near-fatal, possibly mystical experience. Can Katla survive this major life makeover and find a dress for the homecoming dance? Drawing from Norse mythology and inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, debut author Wendy Delsol conceives an irreverent, highly entertaining novel about embracing change and the (baby) bumps along the way.

Scary Tales: Sweden's The Lord of Rosendal

Halloween is almost upon us so I decided to share some of the scary tales that I have collected over the years. And as I considered this, I thought of the scary tales I collected for Bluebeard Tales From Around the World (Surlalune Fairy Tale Series). Most of the scary tales I have collected are Bluebeard tales--there's not much that scares me more than a murderous husband. So I've picked several from the book to share with you over the coming days up to Halloween.

The Lord of Rosendal


This tale is not a Bluebeard tale. However, it contains the interesting element of a betrothed woman breaking her engagement after witnessing the cruel behavior of her fiancée, although he does not threaten her directly. Some scholars have thus considered The Lord of Rosendal a Bluebeard type of character even if his story does not contain enough elements to be classified as an ATU 311, 312 or 955.

IN THE beginning of the sixteenth century there lived in Skane a nobleman, Andres Bille, Lord of Rosendal, who was very severe toward his dependents, and it was not unusual that a disobedient servant was put in chains, and even into the castle dungeons.

One day Bille’s intended made a visit to Rosendal. Upon entering the courtyard almost the first object that attracted her attention was a peasant tethered like a horse. She inquiring as to the cause of such treatment, Bille informed her that the servant had come late to work, and was now suffering only well merited punishment. The young woman begged Bille to set the man at liberty, but this he refused to do, and told her, emphatically, that she must not interpose in his affairs.

“When the intended wife,” said the young lady, as she returned to her carriage, “is refused a boon so small, what will be the fate of the wife?” and thereupon she commanded her coachman to drive her home at once, and resolved to come no more to Rosendal.

People predicted that such a heartless man could not possibly be at rest in his grave, and true to the prediction, Bille, after his death and burial, came every night, in spirit, to Rosendal. Halting his white team in the courtyard, with stealthy steps he would make his way to his former bedchamber where he would spend the night until cock-crow. If the bed had been prepared all was quiet in the chamber, otherwise such a dreadful noise followed that there was no such thing as sleep in the castle. Always, upon going to the room in the morning, the bed clothes were found tossed about and soiled as if a dog had occupied the bed.

When the specter had gone on in this manner for a number of years, the new owner of the estate applied to a pious priest in Hässlunda, Master Steffan, and begged him to put a stop to these troublesome visits. To this end the priest, one day, accompanied by a fellow priest, set out for Kropp’s Church, where Bille was buried. On the stroke of 12 o’clock, midnight, the grave opened and the ghost of the dead lord stepped forth. Father Steffan’s companion at once took to his heels, but Father Steffan remained and began to read from a book he had with him. During the reading the ghost became larger and larger, but the priest would not be frightened. Finally the apparition interrupted the reading and addressed the priest.

“Is that you, Steffan, the goose thief?”

“It is, indeed, I,” replied the priest, “and it is true that in my boyhood I stole a goose, but with the money received for the goose I bought a Bible, and with that Bible I will send you to hell, you evil spirit.” Whereupon he struck the specter such a blow on the forehead with the Bible that it sank again into purgatory.

Unfortunately, because of the truth of Bille’s accusation and that it came from Bille, the priest’s prayers and reading lost much of potency, and he was unable to enforce upon the ghost entire quietude. Nevertheless, so much was accomplished that Bille now comes to Rosendal only once a year.

See G. Lundgren’s Skanska Herrgârdar, Vol. I.


Hofberg, Herman. Swedish Fairy Tales. W. H. Myers, translator. Chicago: Belford-Clarke Co., 1888, 1890.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cinderella in Butter

The image is quite large so you can click on it and see more of the details and then be impressed by this man's accomplishment.

From India wins its first Silver Medal at International Culinary Olympics 2012:

It was a fairy tale ending for a fairy tale inspired butter sculpture at the International Culinary Olympics 2012. Indian Chef Devwrat Jategaonkar's Cinderalla 3ft x 3ft x 3ft sculpture made of butter won silver in the Culinary Artistry category. Toiling for two months, Chef Devwrat of the Radisson Blu, Alibaug, created the dramatic scene from Cinderella showing her running down the steps of the palace, leaving her glass slipper behind, as Prince Charming follows her.

While creating the butter sculpture was a challenge, carrying it to Germany for the Olympics, all in one piece, was an even bigger task. But it all worked out well, with the perfect "happily ever after" ending as Chef Devwrat created history by being the first Indian chef to make a mark at the International Culinary Olympics.

And how fitting that the competition was in Germany even if this is the French Cinderella depicted here...

Introvert Fairy Tales

Anne Anderson's Briar Rose

There's a small blog called Introvert Fairy Tales, which has some fun, short fairy tale retellings. One of my favorites is Sleeping Beauty:

Introvert Fairy Tales: Briar Rose was born a happy, responsive baby to her doting parents. Eager to celebrate the birth of their first daughter with family and friends, they invited the whole community to join them in a feast.

At the feast, the people brought gifts and voiced their hopes and prayers for the new baby. As more and more people spoke, one woman sat in the corner looking more and more uncomfortable. These people were delivering curses. They used different words, of course, but they were terrible things to wish on a poor child: to be forever judged on her appearance, to be burdened by expectations; to be always seeking the approval of others.

Towards the end of the evening, when the crowd had died down, the woman approached Briar Rose and finally spoke.

“Life will be hard. It always is. These people seem to have ensured it. But you’ll pick up hobbies and one day, if you’re very lucky, you’ll end up discovering a craft that you love. Time will fly while you do it, you’ll be completely focused on the task at hand and it will help with the stress.” She paused, considering her final words. “May you never get RSI*.” And with that she left.

Briar Rose never did get RSI, and moreover she never pricked her finger on a spindle because she developed callouses on her hands in all the right places from a very early age.

I found many of these more clever than several I've read like this over the years. Don't miss the Beauty and the Beast one. Loved it, too. Hope the project continues.

*RSI: Repetitive strain injury.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fairy Tale Tabs 10/18/2012

Don't miss Tales of Faerie's Cinderella Pumpkins. Je les adore!

This one I seriously debated as a separate blog post, but I was firm with myself. Read about this Facebook initiative: Fairy Tales Meet Facebook in Indonesia. "'Maerchen Goes Facebook' is a new Facebook fan page under the name of DE-Fans, created by Goethe-Institut Indonesia for the region of Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It has more than 5,700 fans and counting." Fascinating competitions, tourism promotions, and fairy tale hype...

If you don't know about Humble Bundle yet, check it out. Part of the current bundle ending in a few days are books by Kelly Link with fairy tale inspirations, Stranger Things Happen (such as Travels with the Snow Queen and Shoe and Marriage) and Magic for Beginners (such as Catskin). Those last two links are to Amazon so you can read the book reviews and tables of content to learn more about the fairy tale influences.

Huffington Post featured Fairy Tales For 20-Somethings Tumblr Reveals The Truth About Growing Up.

And for Halloween, read about Boulder High presents twisted fairytale haunted house. Not many details about the fairy tales, but fun to consider.

Fairy tale figurines from vegetables by Huyen Tran Chau

From Germany: Fairy tale figurines from vegetables:

Vietnamese master cutter Huyen Tran Chau has crafted a series of fairy tale figurines made from vegetables. A selection will be exhibited in the city library in the German town of Lübeck. The artist herself was present at the official opening.

Huyen Tran Chau was inspired by the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales. She used a simple kitchen knife to cut out the figurines, and utilized certain spices to add color.

Cutting vegetables has become a venerable art form in Asia. The aim is to please the eye as well as the tongue.

The exhibit will run till November the second.
I couldn't find more images from this exhibit other than the one above but here are some old images by the same artist that I found on a different blog here and here. I love these. They are quite fun.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grimm Brothers, Very Grim Tales by Neely Tucker

Oh, what are we going to do when all of the 200 Grimms Anniversary is over? All of these wonderful publications and articles!

Here's an article from the Washington Post discussing the Grimms and promoting Maria Tatar's new edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm (The Bicentennial Edition). There's not too much new in this one for regular readers, but it's still a good start off point for sharing.

From Grimm Brothers, very grim tales by Neely Tucker:

Once published, the stories began to have a slow but steady rise in popularity, with an English translation in 1823. The brothers had anticipated an audience of fellow scholars. They were alarmed when they learned that parents were reading them to children — Rapunzel gets preggers up there in the tower! — and they put out an abridged edition, just for children, of 50 stories.

And over the course of six more editions and 40 years, they further rewrote the sex out of the stories, polished the prose, and made the once-oral tales into increasingly longer, literary flourishes of ad­ven­ture, magic, cruelty and heroism. Stepmothers were inserted as the frequent villain (getting moms off the hook), nobody has sex (at least in the story) and the little “Butcher” story — well, that one was dropped entirely.

By the dawn of the 20th century, the stories were hugely popular. It set into play a new canon of literature — stories for children that featured all the terrors of childhood, set into short, sharp tales that are filled with poison apples, magic spells, talking wolves and cannibals lurking in the shadows.

“It’s really the beginning of children’s imaginative literature,” Tatar says. The kind of book you might find in the Hogwarts library.

Adam Gidwitz: Defending Fairy Tales

A Tale Dark and Grimm 

Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly, is making the media rounds. The first book was a bonding reading book during one of my niece's short visits last year. The new one will most likely be part of our holidays this year. We read aloud and then she finished when she couldn't wait for us to finish it together.

Neither of Gidwitz's appearances should be missed by readers here. I can only share excerpts.

First, Gidwitz discusses his experiences and thoughts about filtering Grimms to children at the Wall Street Journal blog at In Defense of Real Fairy Tales:

While adults wring their hands over whether children should be exposed to the real Grimm, young people themselves have no such ambivalence. In my visits to schools I have witnessed the introduction of Grimm tales to thousands of children—elementary students in urban London, middle schoolers in rural Texas, high school students in suburban Baltimore—and the reaction is always the same: enthusiasm that borders on ecstasy.

Which is, I admit, a little strange. Grimm fairy tales are 200 years old. They do not feature guns or robots, they do not involve cliques or internet slang, they do not mention LeBron James or the WWE. They are not televised or computerized. They are the most primitive form of entertainment still in existence. How do they bewitch an auditorium full of tweens and adolescents? Why, contrary to adults’ expectations and apprehensions, are fairy tales so perfectly appropriate for these children?

Second, there is an interview with Monica Edinger with Huffington Post at Spooky, Spooky Fairy Tales:

Since you are a sort of fairy tale nerd (as am I) what is your take on my impression that for the general public fairies and fairy tales continue to have an image problem. Seems to me that for all the urban fantasy out there (in books, movies, and television shows), many still associate fairy tales with sparkly teeny tiny women flitting about with wings, pink, and Disney. Would you agree? Disagree?

I agree. And most of these adaptations don't really help the cause at all. Most of the current adaptations of Grimm fairy tales take details from the original tales and use them as a jumping off point to tell their own story and to do their own thing. They toss the form and the style of the fairy tale out the window. I think this is a great waste. Fairy tales have endured not only because of the stories they tell but also because of how they tell them. Fairy tales are told simply, matter-of-factly; they are brief; they deal with the deepest of emotions--pain, humiliation, betrayal, lostness (if you will)--without any hyperbole or drama. The Grimm fairy tales in crystalize our most essential emotions. These modern adaptations, for the most part, have nothing to do with our deepest human emotions. They miss the point of fairy tales altogether.

Another criticism fairy tales get is that they are violent yet you seem to have embraced that idea and run with it. Why?

The real fairy tales are indeed quite violent. But the violence is not gratuitous. On the contrary, it is essential to fairy tales' task. One of fairy tales' methods of speaking to the readers' deepest emotions is a technique I like to call "tears into blood." There is a wonderful Grimm tale called "The Seven Ravens," in which a father loves his one little daughter so much more than his seven boys that he wishes they would turn into birds and fly away--which they promptly do. When the little girl discovers that her brothers' disappearance is due to her father loving her more than he loved the boys, she runs away from home to find them. She is given a chicken bone by the stars (yep, you read that right), and told that it will open the Crystal Mountain where the boys are trapped. The little girl journeys to the mountain but, upon arriving, realizes that she has lost the chicken bone. At this moment, any real child's feelings of guilt would be extraordinary. Not only was it indirectly her fault that her brothers were turned into birds, but in losing the chicken bone she has lost the ability to save them.