Review: The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (Knickerbocker Classics) - Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm

I started reading this book on January 2 of this year and I’ve been slowly, slowly working my way through it.  It’s 752 pages and contains 211 stories.  I think, if I had tried to read this book all at once, I probably would have given up on it.  As it is, I’m not sure finishing it is the wisest thing I’ve ever done.  It was entertaining at first, but it grew increasingly repetitive and tiresome.  It was tolerable in small portions, though.  It also made pretty good bedtime reading.  I usually started off reading my regular book before bed but, if I wasn’t feeling tired as bedtime approached, I’d pull up this one and read a couple stories.  More often than not, I was feeling quite sleepy after that. :)


The repetition cannot be understated.  There were some stories that were nearly identical, with small changes to the details.  In other cases, part of one story was cobbled together with part of another story to make a new story.  In yet other cases, the story was more changed, but the underlying plot elements were very similar to that of other stories.  As far as general themes and character types went, those were repeated constantly.  Similar stories tended to be grouped together, which made the repetition that much more obvious. 


I’m probably making it sound a little worse than it actually was.  There were some entertaining stories and some funny stories.  It was particularly interesting to see older versions of some of the modernized fairy tales that are well-known today. A few of the stories were so bizarre that I just started at my Kindle in puzzlement for a while before shrugging and moving on. 


The stories are over 200 years old, and they very much reflect the morals and attitudes from that time.  In particular, there is an awful lot of racism.  Although I never lost sight of the fact that this was a product of the times in which the stories originated, I think the repetition made it more difficult for me to just acknowledge it and then move on. 


I would like to leave you with a handful of the oft-repeated lessons that I “learned” from this collection:

  • Pretty girls are always pure of heart.
  • Ugly girls are always wicked.
  • Princes are randomly wandering around all over the place, particularly in the forest, and they’ll marry the first pretty girl they see.  Immediately.
  • Your chances of being married by a prince are greatly increased if you’re poor or if you’ve been mistreated by your family.
  • If you’re one of three brothers and you’re not the youngest, you’re arrogant and you’ll likely fail miserably at everything you do because you’re rude to people.
  • If you’re one of three brothers and you are the youngest, your family will think you’re stupid and make fun of you.  On the bright side, you’ll likely obtain a kingdom or at least great wealth just by accurately and politely answering nosy questions from random people you meet.
  • There’s no need to plan ahead for any quest or trip you take.  Just take off when the mood strikes, and you’ll meet creatures along the way who happen to have exactly what you need, sometimes before you even know you need it.
  • If things aren’t going well on your quest, just stand around and look despondent.  If you’re a girl, maybe shed a tear or two.  Somebody is bound to show up and do all of your work for you.