Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Robber Bridegroom by The Brothers Grimm Review (Little Black Classics #68)

This Penguin Little Black Classic collects seven of the Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales: The Master Huntsman, The Robber Bridegroom, The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs, The Six Servants, The Bremen Town Band, Snowwhite, and Lazy Harry (all translated by David Luke). 

These are the original, non-sanitized versions of the stories so they’re pretty bloody - giants are beheaded, a man is torn apart by horses, man-eating thieves rove the woods, and vicious stepmothers galore appear throughout! 

Snowwhite is by far the most famous of the stories and it’s what you’d expect - the evil Queen, magic mirror, seven dwarves, the huntsman, etc. The evil Queen could’ve probably offed Snowwhite a lot easier though. First she tries to lace her up real tight, then when that fails goes for the poisoned comb before finally settling on the poisoned apple - and even that didn’t really work in the end! Should’ve just stuck a knife in her. 

It’s easy to see why it’s a world-famous story but, as I already knew it well, it didn’t hold my attention that much. If you’re going to read a version of the story though, this is the one, replete with the eating of human organs and the torture of dancing in heated iron slippers til death! 

The title story is a bit weak. It too is gruesome but overly repetitive and a bit simplistic, even for a fairy tale and I’m not too sure what the point was - don’t have your idiot dad arrange to marry you to some total stranger? 

The Master Huntsman is a fun action-fantasy story about a guy who saves a kingdom from giants, even if some of his actions indicate psychopathic behaviour - I expect Hollywood has something lined up for this story though with Chris “Thor” Hemsworth. 

The Six Servants is a bit like an early version of a superhero story. Six extraordinary men - the Fat Man, the Tall Man, Freezer, the Blindfolded Man, the Listener, and the Sharpsighted Man (even their names are vaguely superhero-ish!) - help an ordinary, but intelligent, man get laid and win a kingdom from, yes, another wicked Queen. The mental visuals alone made this one of the standout stories in the book. 

My favourite story in the collection was The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs where a Fortune-Child is born, survives against the odds, grows up and goes to Hell to pluck three golden hairs from the Devil in order to win a kingdom. It’s really imaginative, clever, and entertaining, not to mention full of mysterious dark imagery. 

The Bremen Town Band and Lazy Harry are two stories that passed me by completely - no idea what happened in those stories so I guess they were there to fill up space! 

The Grimms’ fairy tales are simplistically written in that there are a lot of run-on sentences (“and” is overused to extend the sentences too) and boy do those resolutions come about fast! Like many traditional fairy tales, they don’t concern themselves much with explanation either - a character goes to Hell, what of it? - or spend more than a sentence characterising anyone. They’re also very repetitive in theme and content: kingdoms and princesses are usually prizes, evil stepmothers are often the villain, and the hero is more often than not a clever young man. 

This slender volume contains a couple of really good stories and several ok-to-forgettable ones. Not a bad collection but not a great one either - a fine intro to the Grimm’s fairy tales.

The Robber Bridegroom

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