“Princes, Frogs and Ugly Sisters” is an interesting look at life, families and relationships using the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales and the wisdom they contain. If you have been brought up on the Disney versions of these tales then hold on to your hats when you read this as you’ll no doubt be shocked at just how different the original stories are!
Personally, I struggled with this book, I so wanted to love it but I couldn’t help but feel cynical and feel that it was, in places, judgmental, middle class and read a little too much into the tales. However, I put these feelings to the author, Allan, and he was very happy to answer my criticisms and questions. I cannot get across just how lovely a man he is and, having discussed my feelings about the book, I will definitely be re-reading it with fresh eyes, after having read the Grimm’s tales of course!
My description above of “judgmental” and “middle class” was based on the opinions that are very evident in the book. I, mistakenly, assumed that they were Allan’s personal opinions when, in fact, they are the views of the conservative society in which the Grimm Brothers were writing. Allan explains that the Grimms’ Tales are “ultimately, ‘conservative’ in their outlook because they were talking about the concerns of a very traditional bunch of people in the year 1800.” Please bear this in mind while reading the book as it is very easy to be distracted by the “oh that’s not PC” thoughts that will detract from the wisdom that the book has to offer.
Allan also says that his aim is “not to praise the Grimms’ views as unequivocally ‘right’ but to suggest that before we throw them out and take Disney we need to be sure what we’re throwing out.” This is a fair thing to ask and it becomes obvious quickly that Allan is more than a little irritated by the “Disneyfication” of the Grimm’s tales and as you read you will discover why; the key points in the tales have been totally ignored by Disney for reasons that will remain a mystery to me! Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Snow White with the Disney sparkle, but now knowing the true endings I can see how much more I could have learnt had they been left intact. In fact, since reading the book, I have made the decision to read the original tales to my children (when I have them) alongside the Disney films, that way they get the best of both worlds!
If you’re a Literature geek (or buff if you prefer!) then you will love this, it looks very deeply into the tales and gives you a lot to think about. It’s an ideal companion to have if you are studying the tales for pleasure or otherwise. You can definitely learn some valuable life lessons from the book, and the tales themselves, and for that alone it’s worth a read. He has definitely convinced me to read the Grimm’s tales and I’m going to give the book a 7/10 with a re-read pending! And now I shall leave you with the man himself giving an interview on the book. His enthusiasm is infectious!