Thursday, December 20, 2012

200 years of the brothers Grimm

Two hundred years ago today, the brothers Grimm published their collection of fairy tales. On numerous occasions Janet Frame acknowledged  her debt to the Grimms' Fairy Tales. Here is an excerpt from one of her tributes, 'Tales from Grimm' published in an educational journal in 1975:
I read Grimms’ tales in what privacy I could find with seven in the household and a bedroom and bed with four in it. Some of the stories I’d read before, in school books. ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ was the first story in our first reading book, while the second was the story of the boy swallowed by a fox. How many anxious moments I had, in the primers, when I walked to and from school and was fearful, in a land of sheep, that a fox would spring out and swallow me!
My delight in Grimms’ tales was in finding all the stories, old and new, together, and in tasting again and again the thrilling plunge of each first sentence (‘A certain man had two sons . . . Once upon a time . . .’) then the telling (like opening the eyes after being submerged) ‘It happened that one day . . .’ then halfway through the story the knowing that I couldn’t go back and I was afraid to go on. As far as I remember, the longest story and my favourite was ‘The Blue Light’. Then ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ and the old soldier who unexpectedly chose to marry the eldest; ‘One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes’; ‘Rapunzel’.

I found the book so satisfying, I think now, in the convention of its storytelling, the journeys, meetings, the matter-of-fact descriptions of marvels, the talking animals and trees, and in the way the stories had their heart in a family — brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, rich and poor, whose goodness and wickedness had been found out and described without fear. Any act was possible. Anything could happen. Nothing was forbidden.

~ Janet Frame
(reprinted in Janet Frame in Her Own Words Penguin 2011)

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