Years ago when I began to take my kidlit blogging seriously I decided to do something I doubted many people would voluntarily do: read every one of the collected Grimm fairy tales and comment on those of note, figuring maybe one in three would be interesting. This was over at my review blog, the excelsior file, and I called these posts “grimmoire” as a play on the word grimoire which is a textbook of magic. I thought it fitting for a person going into the study of children’s literature to be truly familiar with one of its touchstones and it was fun going.
But I only got 58 stories into The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm translated by Jack Zipes before I stopped. It would be fun to say that in my unmasking of “Rumpelstiltskin” I was somehow bewitched and prevented from continuing but the reality is much more concrete. In October of 2007, where I left off, I had just received word that I was accepted into the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. My gears shifted as I began to bone up on all the books I was expected to know; the New York Public Library’s “100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know” and “100 Books that Shaped a Century” from School Library Journal, as well as a handful of books on craft. I set the Grimmoire aside with the intention of coming back to them, someday. Eventually.
Remembering this I picked up the original tales and wondered if and how I could pick up where I left off. Would it make sense to do so, three years and an MFA later, to simply recount the tales with my own observations? Perhaps instead of picking up where I left off as if nothing had happened I could start from the end and work my way backward. With that in mind I opened the book, read the final story “The Silver Poplar,” and realized it would take more words to explain and analyze the story that it would to simply retype it.
Which started me thinking.
The original point of my reviewing the Grimm tales was to not only familiarize myself with them but to also work on honing my analytical skills, to work toward what I was later taught as “reading like a writer.” It was helpful at the time, at times highly amusing, but it feels like a weak exercise to me now. Reading “The Silver Poplar” I wasn’t struck with the desire to understand the story so much as I wanted to fill in the story’s gaps, to retell it with asides and a we bit-o-snark. After all, every season it seems people reinterpret classic fairy tales for picture books, and it seems a better writers exercise for me to use the stories as a jumping off point for my continued development as a writer.
So that’s what I think I’m going to try next, to start reading and reinterpreting Grimm’s fairy tales. And since they won’t be reviews in the traditional sense (or at all, really) I’ll be posting them here rather than at the other blog.
It seems a good goal for the coming year (as opposed to calling it a resolution, which breaks the minute you announce it to the world) but I do wonder a couple details. Should I attempt to do as many as possible, as more of a free-write exercise, or would it be better to pick one day during the week as a showcase? Thursdays? I like Thursdays. Do I need to even set that rigid a goal or define what I’m doing so clearly in the beginning? Well, yeah, maybe I do just to keep me honest, but I’m wondering what you, dear reader, would be willing to put up with.
That’s basically it. I want to revisit the Grimmoire and see where these brothers and their collected folk whimsy (and horror) lead me. You comments and messages of support would be greatly appreciated. I know I don’t normally fish for comments but it’s the end of the year and I’m feeling this odd urge to reach out. Plus, I don’t really have a “best of the year” list or a “year in review” post for those same purposes, so this is my one year-end shot.
With that in mind, I do want to thank you, my faithful readership, for your kind indulgences and attention. Looking forward to our continued conversations, and wishing you the best for the coming year.