Sunday, January 22, 2012

Revisiting "Old Masters"

My little sister called me earlier this week and asked me which Brothers Grimm stories were my favorite.  She is currently taking a mythology class in college.  Now, I consider myself to be somewhat well-read in children’s literature, at least when it comes to picture books and stories for young listeners.  But when my sister asked me that, I drew a complete blank. 

“Brothers Grimm,” I thought. “Brothers Grimm.  Which ones were those? Did they write Cinderella and Snow White?  No, I think that was Hans Christian Andersen.  Hmmm, which stories belonged to the Brothers Grimm?”
Still, complete blank.  The only thing I could think of was a movie by the same name, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger; a movie that I haven’t even seen. 

In other words: Fail. 
Luckily, when I first began this children’s book journey a few years back, my dad gave me three treasuries of children’s literature including 1) Anthology of Children’s Literature, 2) A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen, 3) The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature, and last but not least 4) Grimm’s Complete Fairytales. I had asked him for these books in order to read up on classic stories for children that have prevailed.   What better way to truly become immersed in children’s literature than to read the “Old Masters.”  Just by skimming through the table of contents, I was able to see The Grimm brothers wrote stories including “Cinderella” (not Hans Christian Anderson),“Rapunzel” and “Sleeping Beauty” just to name a few. 

Obviously, I’m not as well-read as I thought.  Thus, I’ve given myself a new task: read up on the folktales, fables, and fairytales of the past as a way to study storytelling.  That way, the next time I’m asked about the past greats, I’ll have a much more informed answer.

Thank you, little sis, for the reminder.  Back to the books!


  1. Well, you are certainly not alone in not having read the classics. And many of the classic tales we have read are modern versions and quite different from the originals. I should do some of the same. And I'm sure they will inspire new poems and stories for both of us.

  2. I started re-reading fairy tales a couple of years ago when I was writing my story collection and Granny's Jig was on hold. Then I read some more, because I wanted to know what tales the youngest daughter in Granny's Jig would like. But even then, I'm not always sure which is Grimm and which is Andersen unless I go check the books. Some of those stories were my favorites as a child, but when you're a child you never think to pay attention to the author of a collection. ;-0

  3. Rosi-- It definitely is interesting reading the original versions and comparing them to the mainstream versions. I really am enjoying reading them! I've started with the Brothers Grimm, and then will read Andersen.

    Mitty-- It is easy to get them mixed up. But I am hoping as I read more of their stories, I'll get better at discerning which wrote which. Also, I like the idea of incorporating past stories into new manuscripts (like Anansi in "Imani's Moon").

    I certainly hope I'll get some great inspiration from them. But even if I don't, they sure are fun to read! :)