Reviews — From the December 2012 issue

A Tone Licked Clean

Fairy tales and the roots of literature

Download Pdf
Read Online

Discussed in this essay:

The Annotated Brothers Grimm, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Edited by Maria Tatar. W. W. Norton. 552 pages. $35.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version, by Philip Pullman. Viking. 400 pages. $27.95.

The Fairies Return: Or, New Tales for Old, compiled by Peter Davies. Edited by Maria Tatar. Princeton University Press. 368 pages. $24.95.

Here’s a story: There once was a woman who wanted, more than anything else, to have a child. One winter day, while peeling an apple under the juniper tree in her garden, she cut her finger, dripping blood on the snow. Nine months later, she gave birth to a boy with skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood. But she died when the child was born, and in time her husband took a new wife, who bore him a daughter.

The boy’s stepmother hated him, and made his life miserable. One day she offered him an apple from a chest; when the boy leaned inside to take it, she slammed the lid down and the child’s head was struck off. She placed his head back on his neck and sat him in a chair. When the evil woman’s daughter came home, she told the girl to ask her brother for an apple. “And if he doesn’t give you an answer, slap his face.” Of course the boy didn’t answer, and when his sister slapped him, his head flew off.

“Don’t worry, I know how to cover up your crime,” the woman told her daughter, and she chopped up the little boy and cooked the pieces in a stew. That evening, she served the stew to her unwitting husband, who liked it so much he ate the whole thing, tossing the bones under the table.

The sister, full of sorrow, gathered the bones of her brother and placed them at the roots of the juniper tree. A beautiful bird sprang from the branches and sang a ravishing song, with these words:

My mother, she slew me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister buried my bones
Under the juniper tree.
What a fine bird am I!

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 6

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year. Or purchase this issue on your iOS or Android devices for $6.99.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Share
is a staff writer at <em>Salon.</em> She is the author of <em>The Magician����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½s Book: A Skeptic����¯�¿�½������¢������¯������¿������½������¯������¿������½s Adventure in Narnia.</em>

More from Laura Miller:

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content
Close

Please enjoy this free article from Harper’s Magazine.