Grimms' Fairy Tales

By Matt Haig

24,982 ratings - 4.13* vote

From the land of fantastical castles, vast lakes and deep forests, the Brothers Grimm collected a treasury of enchanting folk and fairy stories full of giants and dwarfs, witches and princesses, magical beasts and cunning children. From classics such as 'The Frog-Prince' and 'Hansel and Grettel' to the delights of 'Ashputtel' or 'Old Sultan', all hold a timeless magic whic From the land of fantastical castles, vast lakes and deep forests, the Brothers

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Book details

Paperback, 352 pages
August 29th 1985 by Puffin Classics

(first published 1909)

Original Title
Grimm's Fairy Tales
0141331208 (ISBN13: 9780141331201)
Edition Language

Community Reviews



I'm thrilled that this book contains the nasty version of Cinderella, where the stepsisters not only cut off parts of their feet in an attempt to wear the slipper, but also get their eyes pecked out by birds during the royal wedding.

That'll learn 'em.

These "children's classics" are fairly dripping with blood - particularly the evil blood of those who seek to keep true love from running its natural, ho-hum course.

These were dark and scary times to be a stepmother.
Even though Snow White is stupid enough to fall for the wicked queen dressed as a peddler woman bearing poisoned goodies on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS, it's the queen who's forced to don "red-hot iron shoes" and dance until she drops dead. Then there is the wicked stepmother in The Twelve Brothers. She is put to death in a barrel filled with boiling oil and venomous snakes - (boiling-oil-resistant serpents, one must presume), where she died "an evil death."

Reading more than 50 of these stories in a row tends to get a bit monotonous. In fact, many seem to be the SAME story re-told with only slight changes.

Here are the fairy tale rules:

1) Share your food and drink with tiny forest folk. Kindness to animals is always rewarded.
2) Teeny tiny men seem to have trouble staying out of cows' stomachs.
3) A multitude of tasks must be completed before one is allowed to marry royalty.
4) When three siblings set out on quests, it's always the youngest, weakest, most childlike and kindhearted who succeeds. That one also always goes last, does not make the same mistakes as his or her predecessors, and wins the heart of the prince or princess who is cleverly disguised as an old man or woman.
5) For some reason, tailors see a lot of action.

If you haven't read these, you really should...though I recommend sampling one every now and then, rather than all in one fell swoop.

Too many happily ever afters can leave a sour taste in your mouth. Not to mention a disturbing amount of sympathy for stepmothers.


I was originally was going to give this a 3 because it is uneven strange, and sometimes surprisingly amoral, but then i realized how much I acutally had to say about it, and just how much I enjoyed reading these goofy stories. So bear with me while i recount some of the best and worst stories and some of the strange themes of grimm's fairy tales. (I have to admit, I write these reviews almost entirely for myself)

Some themes/things you should know:
-If you are an evil stepmother or witch, and you are looking for a brother and sister or pair of lovers, they've probably turned themselves into a duck and a lake, respectively.
-people or animals geting released from wolf's stomaches and then placing stones in their place.
-if you kill a dragon, giant or other fearsome creature, always cut out the tongue and hang onto in case you are betrayed by someone who claims to have killed the beast himself (when confronted, the deceiver will always claim that the beast had no tongue, but no one will believe him)
-if you rescue someone (a fair maden, of course) from the bottom of the well while your companions are above ground, always put something else in the basket to replace your weight, because they will drop you and try to kill you.
-Never bet against:
-A tailor
-Anyone named Dummling, or Thumbling
-The youngest of 3 brothers
-Anyone that can talk to, or is kind to animals, or who is kind to old women
-basically anyone young, pretty, and poor.
-Always bet against:
-ugly people

Best stories.
Two Brothers-two brothers wander the world with a shitload of animals at their beck and call, so many in fact, that they decide to split up. they stab some knife or something into a tree that they can look at to see if the other is ok. One becomes a king (after killing a dragon), the other wanders the world. the king goes hunting, gets turned into stone by a witch. the other brother her saves him. lots of other things happen. it's one of the longest and strangest stories and it's just great.
Rumpelstiltskin-One of the classics that the one I knew was actually very similar to the original. NOthing quite as funny as how upset the little guy gets when she figures out his name.
Brother Lustig-Another long and weird story, this is different in that Brother Lustig first appears to be a good guy, then he is kind of a jerk, but he sort of gets picked on by a priest and then he tricks his way into heaven. it's weird.
The Man of Iron-Robert Bly wrote a whole book on manliness based upon this fairy tale, and I can see why. It just a really good story, and very rich with male stereotypes. Not that stereotypes are necessarily good, but it just really well written and interesting.
The Straw, The Coal and The Bean-my favorite. So funny. Contains this passage, as the coal tries to cross the river by walking on the straw: "The straw, however, beginning to burn, and the Coal slipping after, hissed as it reached the water, and gave up the ghost. The Bean, which had prudently remaned up the shore, was forced to laugh at this accident, and the joke being so good, it laughed so immoderately that it burst itself." Fortunately a wandering tailor is able to stitch the bean back up.

3 disturbing stories:
The Frog Prince: Did you know that in the original, the frog is turned into a prince after being thrown against the wall?! She gets pissed at him because she is supposed to be his companion (because he retrieved her ball), but then he turns into a prince and they marry. what kind of lesson does that teach?? Actually the story is really more about the last paragraph, about the prince's loyal servant, Henry, who had tied bands around his heart which broke of happiness upont the prince's return.
Cinderella: one stepsisters tries to get into the shoe by cutting off a toe, the other by cutting off a heel. Their punishment for failure? They get their eyes pecked out by birds.
The Poor Boy in his Grave
An orphaned boy is adopted by a cruel farmer and wife. The farmer beats for his honest or endearing mistakes, like eating a bundle of grapes because he was a hungry. While baling hay while they are out, his sweater gets caught in the hay. Knowing he will be beaten, his despair leads him to drink what the the farmer's wife said was poison, but is actually honey. At this point you still think things are going to end up well. And it's kind of funny, he says "I thought death would be bitter, but it is so sweet!" He then moves onto to the fly-poison, about which he was also lied to, because it turns out to be wine. Still funny. But then his drukeness makes him feel a bit woozy, so he thinks he might be dying so, he goes and lays in an open grave, and the cold and the wine kill him! He lays in the grave forever. The farmer's house burns down later on and he and his wife live in poverty and misery, but come on!!

That's all. See, I told you I had a lot to say.

Bionic Jean

“Kinder-und Hausmärchen” is a key German contribution to world literature. It comprises about 250 traditional tales, which were collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and first published in 1812, with a second volume dated 1815. Although the most accurate translation of this title would be “Children’s and Household Tales”, most English readers know these stories as Grimms’ Fairy Tales, sadly often with the apostrophe misplaced, as “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”.

Between 1824 and 1839, Edgar Taylor had translated these tales into English, again in two volumes. In 1870, Wilhelm’s eldest son, Hermann, edited what has come to be known as the definitive edition of “Kinder- und Hausmärchen”. In 1901, Marian Edwardes made a selection of these tales, and it is on her selection which most modern collections are now based. There is a typical “English Grimm”, which always comprises around fifty stories; not always the same fifty, but all chosen from a list of around half of the original number of 250 in the 1870 edition.

Charles Folkard - “Hansel and Gretel”

The list is short, because these were tales for children, and some were little more than riddles or anecdotes. Some were merely variations on the same theme. And in addition to those banned by the Victorians for their impropriety, the 20th century rejected some for their brutality, horror and anti-Semitism. It is easy enough to find a list of all 250 online, and some of the little known ones are indeed hair-raising to read.

Here I have listed all the ones in this volume, along with alternative names I have discovered they are also known by. I have added the number according to the original classication and order in which they were published. These are based on Marian Edwarde’s selection, and checked against Edgar Taylor’s for authenticity. The text therefore cannot be bettered, in English.

Charles Folkard - “The Three Dwarfs in the Wood”

It has to be said though, that the presentation of the volume is a disappointment. The illustrations are by Charles Folkard, whose watercolours are very much in the tradition of the golden age children’s illustrators, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen. They match the style of tales perfectly, but there are only eight colour plates in the entire book, two of which I have included here. The volume is roughly the size of a hardback novel, and there are line drawings at the beginning of each story, plus occasional ones in between. The less said about the cover illustration the better. It is not credited, but clearly drawn by a staff artist of the time, who created a contemporary feel. I prefer to do away with this cover, as underneath the cloth-bound book is printed with a silhouette repeated design of the girl and the deer, but this is a personal preference.

Because of my disappointment with the reproductions of the art work, I am keeping this review at my default rating of 3 stars.

1. The Dancing Shoes - “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, “The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes” or “The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces” - 133
2. The House in the Wood - “The Hut in the Forest” - 169
3. The Golden Bird - 57
4. The Twelve Huntsmen - 67
5. The White Snake - 17
6. Little Red Riding Hood - “Little Red Cap” - 26
7. The Singing Lark - “The Singing, Springing Lark”, “The Singing, Soaring Lark”, “The Lady and the Lion” or “Lily and the Lion” - 88
8. The Brave Little Tailor - “The Valiant Little Tailor” or “The Gallant Tailor” - 20
9. Rapunzel - 12
10. The Iron Stove - 127
11. Jorinda and Joringel - 69
12. Hansel and Gretel - “Hansel and Grettel”, “Hansel and Grethel”, or “Little Brother and Little Sister” - 15
13. The Boy Who Set Out to Learn what Fear Was - “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was” or “The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear” - 4
14. Donkey-Wort - “The Donkey” - 144
15. Old Sultan - 48
16. The Fox and the Horse - 132
17. The Travelling Musicians - “Town Musicians of Bremen”, “The Bremen Town Musicians” - 27
18. The Golden Goose - 64
19. The Wishing Table - “The Magic Table, the Gold-Donkey, and the Club in the Sack”, “The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Ass, and the Cudgel in the Sack” - 36
20. Tom Thumb - “Thumbling” and “Thumbling’s Travels” (also known as “Thumbling as Journeyman” - 37 and 45 *
21. Snow White - “Little Snow White” - 53
22. The Three Dwarfs in the Wood - “The Three Little Men in the Wood” or “The Three Little Gnomes in the Forest” -13
23. The Four Craftsmen - “The Four Skilful Brothers” - 129
24. Snow-White and Rose-Red - “The Ungrateful Dwarf” - 161
25. The Twelve Brothers - 9
26. Jack My Hedgehog - Hans My Hedgehog - 108
27. The Sleeping Beauty - “Little Briar Rose”, “The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods” - 50
28. The Raven - 93
29. Bearskin -101
30. Cinderella - “The Little Glass Slipper” - 21
31. Three Spinning Fairies - “The Three Spinning Women”, “The Three Spinners” - 14
32. Rumpel-Stilts-Ken - “Rumpelstiltskin”, “Tom Tit Tot” - 55
33. Mistress Holle - “Mother Holle”, or “Mother Hulda”, or “Old Mother Frost” - 24
34. King Thrush-beard 52
35. Thumbling the Dwarf and Thumbling the Giant - *
36. The Water of Life - 97
37. The Blue Light - 116
38. The Fisherman and his Wife - 19
39. The Goose Girl - 89
40. The Water Fairy - “The Water Nixie” or “The Water-Nix” - 79
41. The Frog Prince - “The Frog King”, or “Iron Henry” - 1
42. The Elves and the Cobbler - “The Elves”, or “The Elves and the Shoemaker”, - 39
43. Giant Golden Beard - “The Giant and the Three Golden Hairs”, or “The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs” - 29
44. King of the Golden Mountain - 92
45. The Two Brothers - 60
46. Hans in Luck - 83
47. The Turnip - 146

Steven Walle

A very good read. Reminds me of my childhood days when my Grandma used to read these fairy tales to me. They are pretty graphic however. I recommend this book to all. Read to your children folks. It will create a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge. Enjoy and Be Blessed.Diamond

Bionic Jean

Grimm’s Fairy Tales, (the apostrophe is as it is printed on the book’s title page and cover) is Richard Adams’s personal selection of nineteen tales, which he made in 1981. This is a large format book with illustrations by Pauline Ellison. Pauline Ellison is a prolific illustrator of books, producing meticulous detailed watercolour images with use of natural colour tones. These paintings are quite busy, and the characters and interiors have a Germanic or East European feel. They are very attractive, and the book displays this art well using glossy paper and printing to a high standard.

As I have often found with illustrated books of folk and fairy tales, the actual text is very much the poor relation. Here at least there is one illustration per story, inserted in the story itself, rather than randomly. Yet the size of the book, and the cramped feel of the text does not invite one to read each story. The font size is very small, and the translators are not credited. It seems as if this is a book produced primarily for the artworks.

Richard Adams has written a brief essay as an introduction. Presumably he was asked to make this selection because he was at the peak of his popularity in 1981. I was struck by the synchronicity of an editor who originally conceived his most famous book “Watership Down” as a story to tell his daughters on long car journeys, just as the stories here were an oral tradition, which were passed down and developed through many generations, before being collected and fixed in a written form by the brothers Grimm. However, most of his essay was rather dry and academic, which disappointed me, as I do like Richard Adams’s writing style.

There is nothing to say what determined his choice of stories; some of which are familiar and others not. It would be interesting to know what drew him to these, when he had over two hundred tales by the brothers Grimm to choose from. Here is the complete list of titles:

The Frog King or Iron Henry
Hansel and Gretel
The Fisherman and his Wife
Mother Holle
The Seven Ravens
Fitcher’s Bird
The Juniper Tre
The Six Swans
Little Snow-White
Little Briar-Rose
The Golden Bird
The Golden Goose
The Blue Light
The Moon
Little Red-Cap

All in all, this is not my preferred book of tales by the Brothers Grimm. I would like to be able to read them without navigating a bulky book and poring over the words. But the illustrations are careful, quality work, so I would rate this book at less than the default average, hence 2 stars.

Lauren Smith

I'm glad to have read this, simply because fairy tale plots and themes are used so often in modern literature that it felt good to become acquainted with old versions of the tales and get closer to the original folklore. I also enjoyed picking up on some of the values of the time that come across in the stories.

That said, most of them are terribly boring. The method of storytelling is something I just could not get comfortable with - rapid, perfunctory, repetitive, bizarrely irrational. It was often disturbingly amoral as well, even more so than stories that try to be realistic about how life goes. There are plenty of the happy endings that have come to characterise fairy tales today, but happy endings were certainly not the standard for these tales - some are incredibly violent and/or downright depressing.

I'm not criticising the book or fairy tales in general for this; they're rich cultural texts that still influence literature today. But I decided to go with a subjective rating, which is to say, I did not really enjoy reading this, however valuable the experience.

Manuel Antão

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Wolves and Campfires: Grimms Märchen by Die Brüder Grimm

(Original Review, 2005-11-30)

In Genesis there is suddenly this sentence/observation about giants walking the Earth in them days... I always see those elderly male Jews in Babylon, staring glumly at some campfire, thinking about the good old days and thinking up revengeful plans to smite the enemy. They tell the stories of their tribes but there is that one quite senile idiot always going on about 'them giants' - so in the end they say, "Okay, we WILL put them in. Now shut up already!" I can see myself being the Giant Guy (if more all over the place) and I'm not sure the good campfire folks here need the distraction...

¸¸.•*¨*•♫ Mrs. Buttercup •*¨*•♫♪

I usually rate the books I read based on how much I enjoyed them. However, in this case my level of enjoyment was so low that I should have rated this book one star, and I didn't feel like doing it because of the great historical value of this complete collection of fairytales. I used to love reading fairytales when I was a kid, and now I don't understand if they lost all their appeal to me as a genre or if it's because this edition/collection doesn't meet my taste. Anyway, I just read them as a document and really couldn't see any other reason to go on with the book than to understand the roots of many of our folk tales and appreciate the value of the linguists' work. This edition, however, is stunning: I love the illustrations and the fact that it is a complete collection. I will always be a proud owner of this volume, regardless of how much (or how little) fun I had reading it!

Mike (the Paladin)

I couldn't find the edition I had so I went with one that was closest in date.

Why only 4 stars for the tails we all remember "fondly" from childhood? Think about it. These are "Grimm's" fairy tales and they certainly are "grim". Still there are tales we remember and love so...4. Their at least not as "grim" as Andersen's fairy tales!