2012 marks the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Children's and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm. To celebrate, Philip Pullman is to rewrite 50 (out of the original 211) tales in a Penguin Classics collection, which will be published on the 6th of September. The collection will include many well-known tales including "Rapunzel", "Cinderella" and "Little Red Riding Hood" as well as less-famous stories, such as "Godfather Death" and "Hans My Hedgehog".
Pullman has alerted readers that "this isn't a book for children only." As an author who has never shied away from controversial material in his writing for children we can expect Pullman to address many of the darker aspects of the Grimm tales. For example, Pullman's favourite Grimm tale "The Juniper Tree" (aka "The Almond Tree"), which will be included in the collection, treats of an evil stepmother who murders a child and serves him up to his father for dinner.
This is not the first literary adaptation undertaken by Pullman. In 2010, he took on the New Testament in his The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Fans of his earlier His Dark Materials trilogy will note that the books are a retelling and response to Milton's Paradise Lost. Pullman has described his rewriting of the Grimm tales as: "telling the tales in my own voice, and I'm finding it a great purifier of narrative thinking, rather as a pianist relishes playing Bach's preludes and fugues as a sort of palate-cleansing discipline." The language of purification continues in his stated commitment to making these tales as "clear as water."
This is a significant year for the Grimm tales. As well as the 200 year anniversary and Pullman adaptation, there are also two Hollywood film adaptations of the Grimm's "Snow White" tale coming out next month. Mirror, Mirror (see earlier blog post) stars Julia Roberts play the Evil Queen, while Twilight's Kirsten Stewart takes the title role in Snow White and the Huntsman.