A Tale Dark and Grimm – Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Andersen Press
Release Date: 27th September 2011
Lurking within these covers are sorcerers with dark spells, hunters with deadly aim, and a baker with an oven big enough to cook children in. But if you dare, turn the page and come on in… It may be frightening, it’s certainly bloody, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but unlike other fairy tales you know, this one is true.
A Tale Dark and Grimm is full of fun, blood and adventure, and I loved every page of it.
I loved how Adam Gidwitz mixed both widely known and less well known of the fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm to form one hell of a story. We follow one of the most famous brother/sister teams in literature – Hansel and Gretel – from before they were born to their happy ever after. And boy is it a journey!
Throughout their traumatic adventure the narrator interrupts regularly, putting his own spin on events, warning children to look away now and telling us just where this story should end. But doesn’t. I really do live such direct interaction between the author and the reader and in this case it felt like an authentic fairytale as they are supposed to be told orally by a storyteller and that’s exactly how A Tale Dark and Grimm felt.
Even though I didn’t end up feeling any real connection with Hansel or Gretel I still supported them throughout their quest. The characters that I really loved, now this is going to sound strange, were the three ravens who knew the future. Yes, you read right, fortune-telling ravens. They were brilliantly funny and often indignant about the actions of the humans around them. Utter genius.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Tale Dark and Grimm and it kept me completely occupied on a long train journey and when I get home I shall definitely be digging out some of the original Grimm fairytales.
I’m very pleased to welcome Adam Gidwitz himself to tell us all about his top ten grimmest ways to die. Over to Adam:
Okay, there are lots of terrible ways to die. Illness, being hit by a bus, being eaten by a shark, being hit by a double decker bus, dying of loneliness, being hit by a double decker bus full of tourists... you get the idea. But some of the worst ways to die ever were collected in a volume called “Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old,” and were published, in Germany, two hundred years ago. Those of you who thought fairy tales were sweet and cute and for little kids—enjoy the top ten Grimmest ways to die:
- Once upon a time, millstones were these humungous stones that millers used to grind grain into flour. They weighed about as much as a large car. In one story, a wicked stepmother has one of these millstones dropped on her head, and it crushes her to death. Which is bad, I suppose. But it is dropped by a tiny red bird. If I were the step-mother, I think it’d be the unlikeliness of it all that would really upset me. (The Juniper Tree)
- Would you want to be rolled into a lake trapped in a leaky barrel? No? Me neither. (Farmer Little)
- In one story, an old woman decides to eat a little boy. But before she does she tells his sister all about it (which is dumb, it seems to me). Well, the little girl warns her brother, and together, they run away. The old woman chases them. As she’s gaining, the little girl wishes she were a pond, and the little boy wishes he were a duck on the pond. No sooner do they wish it than it comes true. The evil woman comes to the pond and knows what they’ve done (you know, it just figured...), and so she knelt down and tried to drink the whole pond up. But the little duck-boy comes over and grabs her by the nose with his bill and pulls her under the water and drowns her. Being drowned by a duck is a pretty bad way to die. (Fledgling)
- There is, of course, the classic: a witch tries to eat two children, and so they trap her in an oven and bake her to death. That’s a pretty awful way to die.
- You know what would be a bad way to die? If, when you were asleep, someone stole into your room, cut open your stomach, filled it with rocks, and then sewed it back up. You were dead, though. You just woke up with a terrible stomach ache and seriously thirsty. You ran to a pond to drink and, as you stuck your head in the water, the rocks in your stomach pulled you under and drowned you. To death. (I know that’s redundant, drowning to death; but it sounds cooler that way). (Little Red Riding Hood)
- A little boy leans over a chest, and his stepmother slams the lid of the chest down on the back of his neck, slicing his head off. Then she carves the meat from his bones, cooks it in a stew, and his father, not realizing that it is his son, eats every single drop. All through the meal, the father keeps saying, “This is the most delicious stew I’ve ever tasted!” Which is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. (The Juniper Tree)
- Once upon a time, there was a little dude named Rumpelstiltskin, who didn’t want anyone to know his name. Well, when someone finally figured it out, he was furious. He stomped his right foot on the ground so hard that he drove it three feet into the earth. Then he grabbed his left foot and pulled it up as hard as he could, and tore himself in half. No kidding. (Rumpelstiltskin)
- A wicked stepmother is put in a barrel filled with boiling oil AND poisonous snakes. That’s right. Because boiling oil wouldn’t kill her enough? One of the dudes who killed her was like, “Hey, Jim, dis oil don’t look so hot. You got anything else to make it really bad?” “I got some poisonous snakes!” “Yeah, throw dose in too, what the heck...” (The Twelve Brothers)
- Another wicked stepmother is asked to come up with the cruelest punishment she can think of. She says, “Put the wretch in a barrel, drive long nails into the barrel, and then roll it down a hill into the water, so the wretch’ll drown.” And then exactly that is done to her. I like to think of how she felt going down the hill. Actually, no I don’t. (The Three Little Men in the Wood)
- Once upon a time there was this evil and jealous queen. She did all of this bad stuff to her step-daughter, who was as white snow and red as blood and whose hair was black as ebony. The step-daughter almost died, but she didn’t, and when she married a prince, the prince placed two shoes made of iron in a fire, until they glowed as hot as coals, and then he placed them before the evil queen, and made her put her feet in them, and then forced her to dance until she died. Which is the worst way to die I think I have ever heard of. (Snow White)
If you want to hear more awful ways to die, you should go out and get A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz (me!). There are so, so many more terrible, Grimm, awesome ways to die.
A big thank you to Adam and to Sarah for sending me a copy of A Tale Dark and Grimm to review and for organising the blog tour.