A Tale Dark and Grimm

I’m glad Adam Gidwitz wrote this
book
, because I’m sure lots of people have thought about
writing something like it. It’s one of the natural reactions
to a body of work, like the pre-bowdlerized Grimm fairy tales,
that comes from a point of view that’s foreign yet completely
recognizable.

He strings nine or so of the original tales together so that
they happen to one family, and form a story arc about two
children who leave home, have adventures, and return older and
wiser. The actual text of the tales is pretty much a
translation, but the interstitial matter is in several
completely different voices, some of which (like the one that
keeps saying how awesome everything is) are pretty
irritating.

So one is tempted to say that for good writing, you should get
yourself a good translation of the original brothers Grimm,
except that then you would start fantasizing about writing a
book like this, and you very likely wouldn’t do any better
than Adam Gidwitz. Except that maybe you would clarify the
sense in which you were using “awsome”.

And some of the modern writing is actually pretty good, and
does illuminate what speaks to the modern sensibility about
the primeval tale. For instance, here’s the commentary on how
Hansel and Gretel feel when they get home and the parents
apologize for cutting off their heads:

It will happen to you, dear reader, at some point in your
life. You will face a moment very much like the one Hansel and
Gretel are facing right now.

In this moment, you will look at your parents and realize
that — no matter what it sounds like they are saying — they
are actually asking you for forgiveness. This is a very painful
moment. You see, all of your life you’ve been asking for
forgiveness from them. From the age you can talk you are
apologizing for breaking this, forgetting that, hitting him,
locking her in the garage, and so on. So, having them ask
you for forgiveness probably sounds pretty good.

But when this moment comes, you will probably be in a
lot of pain. And you probably will not want to forgive
them.

In which case, what, you might ask, should you do?

Well, you could yell at them, and tell them about all the
ways they’ve hurt you. This is a good thing to do once, because
— believe me — they need to know. But this is the first step
on the road to forgiveness. What if you’re not even ready for
that?

You could pretend to forgive them. This I would not
recommend. It’s sort of like sweeping broken glass under the
carpet; the floor still isn’t clean, and somebody’s going to end
up with a bloody sock.

Finally, if you don’t want to forgive them, and you don’t
want to fake it, you can always go with Ol’ Reliable: Changing
the subject.


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