Philip Pullman, the celebrated author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, is to publish new adaptations of 50 of his favourite Grimm’s Fairy Tales this autumn, 200 years after the works were first published.
Publisher Penguin announced today the book will be released at the beginning of September with well known tales including Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood, to less famous stories such as Gambling Hans and Godfather Death. He said he wants to tell the best of the tales “in his own voice”.
Grimm Tales for Young and Old will include rewritten versions of the stories. Mr Pullman has included notes at the end of each story explaining the meaning and outlining alternative versions.
Adam Freudenheim, publishing director at Penguin Classics and Reference, took the idea to Mr Pullman four years ago. “Philip Pullman is one of the world’s great storytellers. He has a great enthusiasm and interest in the art of storytelling.
Penguin Classics has called on other authors to take on classics including Peter Ackroyd, who released a retelling of the Canterbury Tales and The Death of King Arthur. “Part of my job is to think of ways to draw people’s attention to the classics,” Mr Freudenheim said.
Pullman, the former children’s laureate, was the only writer to win the Whitbread Book of the Year Award – which is now sponsored by Costa – with a children’s book.
He said: “I’m not in the message business; I’m in the ‘Once upon a time’ business.” Mr Pullman said his favourite of the tales is The Juniper Tree, the dark story of a wicked stepmother.
The first collection by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm called Children’s and Household Tales appeared in 1812 with 86 stories. Following a series of subsequent editions the number of tales rose to more than 200.
Bill Gray, professor of English literary history at the University of Chichester, said: “This is really exciting. Philip Pullman is the right man; he tackles this stuff supremely well.”
He said: “I think these old tales connect with very basic issues. There is something about the stories that, if not eternal, they are certainly classic.”
Professor Gray, who founded the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy and who has written on Mr Pullman, continued: “Philip Pullman writes stunningly well. He deals with big issues including values and the meaning of life.”
This comes amid a series of live action film adaptations of Grimm’s tales. These include two upcoming takes on Snow White - Professor Gray advised on Snow White & the Huntsman - which follow Red Riding Hood last year.
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