“Fitcher’s Bird” is my favorite fairy tale. It could be yours, too. If you wanted it.
I also like the “The Juniper Tree,” and my favorite part of that story has always been when the tree resurrects the cannibalized son as a bird. He is alive again, breathing and mobile and able to drop a millstone on his murderer. But “Fitcher’s Bird” is better. In “Fitcher’s Bird,” after a sorcerer murders her two sisters, the youngest sister pieces their bodies back together, limb by bloody limb, until they are alive again. She makes sure they get safely home. Then she disguises herself as a bird, heads home through the enchanted woods, and sends her henchmen to burn the evil sorcerer’s motherfucking house down. With him and all his friends inside, of course.
Continue reading Reading “Fitcher’s Bird”: Fairy Tales, The Witch Trials, and Carnival
Fairy Tales From the Brother’s Grimm
by Philip Pullman
2012, Viking Press
Content Warning: This review mentions fairy tales that have themes of incest, femicide, and assault.
I love Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, about a pair of youngsters who wander through parallel universes, make friends with armored bears and cagey harpies, and fight in an epic battle against God. I also love fairy tales — I study them. So when I came across Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, I picked it up excitedly. And flipped to the table of contents. And discovered that my favorite Grimm’s tale, Fitcher’s Bird, isn’t included (Pullman selected fifty out of hundreds of stories). I hemmed and hawed and waited a few weeks, but I couldn’t resist: I’m a sucker for Pullman’s narrative voice.
Pullman’s voice — however lovely — is not the crux of the book. He set out to produce a clear, readable rendition of the Grimm’s classics, and his changes are light-handed. Still, the voice seeps through. Pullman smoothes over abrupt transitions and narrative holes with inventive details (I must admit, I love the awkward gaps in folk tales, and don’t always like how Pullman explains them away). He sprinkles the text with his signature anachronistic details (the devil’s grandmother reads a newspaper and Briar Rose’s parents go on special diets to help them conceive) and has fun playing with dialogue: Snow White’s speaking-in-turn dwarves turn in to a gaggle of overlapping voices.
Continue reading Fairy Tales From the Brother’s Grimm by Philip Pullman