|Movie poster property of Miramax|
Have you ever read the original Grimm's Fairy Tales? They are seriously messed up. Take Cinderella as a for instance. One of the stepsisters cuts off part of her foot to fit into Cindy's dainty glass slipper (and seriously, the idea of shoes made of glass is a little gruesome when you stop to think about it, too). And then there's Hansel and Gretel. In A Tale Dark and Grimm, Adam Gidwitz retells the story of these two ill-fated siblings and he doesn't exactly soften it up.
Pretty much the first time we meet Hansel and Gretel, they're getting their heads chopped off by their father. When they come back to life (because it's magic, after all), they decide that they don't really fancy living with parents who were happy to decapitate them without a second thought. So Hansel and Gretel set off in search of better parents. That really shouldn't be such a task seeing as their original parental units murdered them but H&G have a harder time than you might imagine. That's because the world of the Grimms was inhabited by cannibalistic old women and wicked sorcerers.
|Image courtesy of AdamGidwitz.com|
One of the best (read: most horrifying) stories in this little volume tells of how Gretel falls a little in love with a dark, handsome stranger and sets off into the woods to visit him. When she gets to his house, she is warned off by his enslaved mother and hides behind some barrels or something where she watches him drag a girl in by the hair, shove his arm down her throat, pull out her soul, put that soul in a cage, and stew up her lifeless corpse for dinner. What a charmer. (That one comes from the Robber Bridegroom. Ick.)
Gidwitz tells all of these stories, which we have significantly Disney-ified, with a sort of gleeful humor. He interrupts the story regularly, sort of like William Golding with The Princess Bride, to warn us of the horrors to come and encourage little children to flee the room while they still can. These interruptions were cute at first but got just a little jarring towards the end. We get it, I thought, these stories are gruesome. And then Gretel would do something like cut off her finger and stick it into a keyhole to open a door. But while I didn't love the authorial asides, I can see how they would be invaluable to the intended audience of the book, which Amazon suggests is readers ages ten and up. Cutting in every page or so the way he does allows Gidwitz to create some distance between the reader and the hunters who are skinning Hansel alive.
Given the prevalence of shows like "Grimm" and "Once Upon A Time," I think this is a story that could get a pretty decent following among my students. It's a book for fans of horrific violence and fairy tales alike.
Final Grade: B+