Review: Tales From the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird

Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird - Vivian Vande Velde

Earlier in the week I'd thought I'd try and spend parts of today playing video games (in order to find out if the man studying dragons who complains he's never observed their feeding habits gets eaten by one, because my bet is yes) - but somehow the plan morphed into "drink way too much caffeine, intake sugary things, and read childrens' books!" Not that I struggled much trying to avoid it. I was here, the books I'd remembered yesterday, and here we all are.


On to the review - which, look, I'm actually posting now! (It's the caffeine, I swear. I've now had three times my usual amount. I should do this more often.)


Do you remember the first time you watched the film (Gene Wilder version) of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? And the point where you realized that this wasn't just a magical journey into a fantasy factory but was instead a story about awful people being murdered one by one? I hadn't read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None at that point, but boy, are there parallels! And I'll admit I was honestly pleased to watch the awful, awful children disappear in various deadly scenarios. (The film reassures us later that they're alive but we don't see them again, so I was never really convinced. Also if it was really a Christie story I suppose it'd turn out that the evil parents planned it all together, as they all wanted to be rid of their villainous spawn. ...Spawn is such a perfect word there, isn't it? Sounds much more slimy than offspring. Hmmm, where was I going with this...)

It's that sort of glee that I felt as I read Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird. (Though there aren't many murders in the book. Actually just one. Or maybe two - it's hard to tell. And I don't count chapter nine.) There are SO many fairy tales where people do awful things yet end up rich and married to royalty, so it's wonderfully refreshing to have that pointed out (often by characters within the story) and then turned upside down. A few of these were endings I didn't even realize I'd wanted - because again, ugh, so many annoying princesses and princes running around.

An aside on how I picked up this book in the first place. For a number of years when my mom retired she and my dad were volunteer readers for local public schools. This is when locals come in and spend time reading aloud to children, and then talk with them about the books. It may sound easy, but it's pretty much like any reading group - you read the book beforehand, make notes, and you also mark some of the stories to make them more easily read aloud. Also to cut down the time, because depending on the age group, kids are only going to sit still for a certain amount of time.

Anyway, some of the kids books were donated after they'd been read/used, but my folks kept a great deal of them, mainly because many of them are both funny and classics. And also because I said "hey, don't give that away, I eventually want to read that!" So there are a ton of children's books here that I never have read and most of which are new to me. This is one I remember reading reviews on and mentally putting on a TBR list back in the mid 1990s.

I think my top "I never DID like that character!" moment from fairy tales was the princess with the golden ball in The Frog Prince. Without spoiling it, let's just say that the frog critiques her perfectly, and acts accordingly. Which I'd file under Happy Ending. In fact there are multiple instances of one of the Happily Ever After couple instead deciding "nope, not for me!" Randomly, in a completely different (and darker) tone, the Hansel and Gretel story is nicely creepy yet managing to still be fairly kid safe. In the same way the 1960s film Village of the Damned is. (Actually both are pretty creepy, it depends on how much you think about them.)

There are multiple stories, but also poems and a few short bits. And humor all over the place.

Now to figure out how to quote some of this without spoiling too much...

p 18, from Straw into Gold (which has an ending I like SO much better than the original)

"I see," Rumpelstiltzkin said. "First he says, 'Spin the straw into gold or I'll chop your head off,' then he says 'Spin the straw into gold or I'll chop your head off,' then he says 'Spin the straw into gold and I'll marry you.' The man has a way with words. No wonder you want to marry him."

p 37-38, from The Granddaughter

...Because they were best friends, they told each other everything, and one of the things that Granny told the wolf was that she dreaded visits from her granddaughter, Lucinda.

"I'm afraid my son and his wife and spoiled her," Granny said to the wolf as they shared tea in the parlor of the little cottage Granny had in the woods.

"Children will be children," the wolf said graciously. He had no children of his own and could afford to be gracious. "I'm sure she can't be all that bad."

"You'll see," Granny told him. "You haven't seen Lucinda since she was a tiny baby who couldn't even talk and now she's old enough that her mother says she can come through the woods on her own to visit me."

"Lucky you," the wolf said with a smile.

"Lucky me," Granny said, but she didn't smile.

The wolf didn't visit Granny for nearly a week, being busy with wolf business in another section of the forest where he was advising three porcine brothers on home construction.


p 77-78, here's the entirety of Chapter Nine: Rated PG-13

Fairy tale endings you're not likely to see:

-after growing into a beautiful swan, the Ugly Duckling pecks all his tormentors to death.

-the Emperor orders the execution of everyone who's seen him naked.

-the lazy cat, dog, and mouse suffocate the Little Red Hen with her own cake.

-the elves lock the Shoemaker and his wife in the basement, take all their money, and run off to Central America, where they operate a pirate radio station.

-the Gingerbread Man turns out to be carnivorous and eats the fox.

-Snow White and Sleeping Beauty simply refuse to get out of bed.

-when a portion of the sky really does fall, Chicken Little becomes the leader of her own religious movement; she gets her own TV show, collects millions of dollars to build a theme park, then makes off with the money, joining the elves in Central America.


I sorta want to know what happened after Chicken Little and the elves with the pirate station meet up in South America. After all, they have money to spend.