Shaun Tan’s witch has to be the scariest ever used to illustrate Hansel and Gretel.
It is almost too odd for words, a German translation of Philip Pullman’s retellings of the Grimms’ fairy tales. When I reviewed Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers for Page-Turner at the New Yorker, I worried that the author of His Dark Materials had remained too faithful to the letter of the stories–I had been hoping that he would actually reinvent the fairy tales for our own time, taking them in zany new directions. Since Pullman did not deviate greatly from the letter and spirit of the Grimms, it feels odd to read a German version of “Der Froschkoenig” that strays ever so slightly from what the Grimms wrote. “Als das Wuenschen noch geholfen hatte,” for example, becomes “als das Wuenschen noch gewirkt hatte.” Still, any opportunity to have Shaun Tan illustrate the tales is more than welcome. Not surprisingly, he delivers on every count, and I can’t wait to see the entire set of images. That the translation exists at all is a marvel. And German readers will appreciate the straightforward profundities of Pullman’s introduction and commentary.
And thanks to Philip Nel for calling the volume to my attention!
Here’s Shaun Tan’s description of the volume’s origins: http://www.shauntan.net/books/Grimm%20Tales.html