Check out the unsanitized first edition of the Grimms' fairy tales finally translated into English

What do you think of when you think of fairy tales? Cutesy kiddie stuff suitable for cartoons and school skits and costumes? Or murder, rape, cannibalism, cruelty, torture?

I’ve perversely loved fairy tales since coming across a huge collection of Grimms’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in a tattered album at a flea market when I was five and having my mother buy it for me. I spent four years reading this book (until all the pages fell out; the binding was horrible) as well as I could (since these were not actually children’s editions but adult translations to English and my reading comprehension was limited), before deciding that I “outgrew” the genre and moving on. I spent many nights sleepless with terror, as well as many private moments crying with sadness while reading some of the stories: the one that affected me the most (since I have a younger sister) was “Brother and Sister” from the Grimms’ collection.

I have always been so fascinated by fairy tales, mythology, Biblical and other ancient stories in general, that I even briefly considered a major in folklore and mythology in college (and took two literature courses in the subject). And it was early in college that a friend of mine alerted me to the fact that the brothers Grimm repeatedly sanitized the stories that they had originally collected in the field: Maria Tatar had just published (this was 1987) her book “The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales”, and I was excited to buy a copy (which I still have today). (A second edition came out in 2003, but I have not looked at it.)

A couple of years ago, after accidentally discovering Maria Tatar’s 2002 “The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales” while browsing a library “new book” shelf, I also learned that she was blogging, so I started following her blog, “Breezes from Wonderland”. It was from this blog that I just learned now that Jack Zipes has finally translated the first edition of the Grimms’ fairy tales into English.

Jack Zipes' book

I look forward to checking out Zipes’ new translation. It’s been a decade since I last revisited the Grimms’ fairy tales, and I still perversely love a dark story.

What are your memories of fairy tales as a child? Have you ever read (or read about) the original unsanitized versions of well-known fairy tales? If you are a parent, do you tell your children fairy tales, thinking of them as harmless imaginative entertainment? Would you tell them unsanitized versions of the tales, as people used to do before modern Western sentimentalized views of what is appropriate for children? Or do you think it was wrong how parents used to terrify their children?

(Update of 2014-12-23)

A beautiful essay on the importance of fairy tales, by Rowan Williams.

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