Last week, NPR’s culinary blog “The Salt” ran an interesting piece on food themes in Grimms’ fairy tales. Of course, most of us can remember the witch’s gingerbread house in “Hansel and Gretel,” the poisoned apple in “Snow White,” and the laden picnic basket that Red Riding Hood carries to her grandmother through the dark woods. Food often presents a dangerous lure in these stories and sometimes is downright cannibal in nature as in “The Robber Bridegroom” and “The Juniper Tree.” Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were compiling their German folk tales during the nineteenth century when hunger was still an ominous presence in many people’s lives and memories so perhaps it’s no surprise that food plays such a central role in these stories.
The NPR story focuses specifically on a new edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm translated and edited by Maria Tatar. Though the book is far from complete, all the most important stories are represented along with fascinating annotations, lavish illustrations, and an introduction by A. S. Byatt. If you are as interested in folk lore and fairy tales as I am then this book is well worth your time and attention.
For other interesting views on fairy tales, check out Clever Maids: the secret history of the Grimm fairy tales by Valerie Paradiz, From the Beast to the Blonde: on fairy tales and their tellers by Marina Warner, and Fairy Tales: a new history by Ruth B. Bottigheimer. More works from Maria Tatar include The Annotated Peter Pan, Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood, and Off With Their Heads!: fairy tales and the culture of childhood. For more about the Grimm brothers themselves try The Brothers Grimm: from enchanted forests to the modern world by by Jack Zipes. Finally, for a really wild take on the Grimms and their work, check out Terry Gilliam’s 2005 fantasy film The Brothers Grimm starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. This movie isn’t for everyone (and definitely not for children…or easily spooked adults!) but I found it weird, original, and very very entertaining.
Do you enjoy fairy tales? What are some of your favorites?