Just in time for the Halloween season, Adam Gidwitz's "A Tale Dark & Grimm" gives some classic fairy tales an awesome reboot. Read an excerpt from the latest pick of Al’s Book Club for Kids.
Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.
I know, I know. You don’t believe me. I don’t blame you. A little while ago, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. Little girls in red caps skipping around the forest? Awesome? I don’t think so.
But then I started to read them. The real, Grimm ones. Very few little girls in red caps in those.
Well, there’s one. But she gets eaten.
“Okay,” you’re probably saying, “if fairy tales are awesome, why are all the ones I’ve heard so unbelievably, mind-numbingly boring?” You know how it is with stories. Someone tells a story. Then somebody repeats it and it changes. Someone else repeats it, and it changes again. Then someone’s telling it to their kid and taking out all the scary, bloody scenes—in other words, the awesome parts—and the next thing you know the story’s about an adorable little girl in a red cap, skipping through the forest to take cookies to her granny. And you’re so bored you’ve passed out on the floor.
The real Grimm stories are not like that.
Take Hansel and Gretel, for example. Two greedy little children try to eat a witch’s house, so she decides to cook and eat them instead—which is fair, it seems to me. But before she can follow through on her (perfectly reasonable) plan, they lock her in an oven and bake her to death.
Which is pretty cool, you have to admit.
But maybe it’s not awesome.
Except—and here’s the thing—that’s not the real story of Hansel and Gretel.
You see, there is another story in Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A story that winds all throughout that moldy, mysterious tome— like a trail of bread crumbs winding through a forest. It appears in tales you may never have heard, like Faithful Johannes and Brother and Sister. And in some that you have—Hansel and Gretel, for instance.
It is the story of two children—a girl named Gretel and a boy named Hansel—traveling through a magical and terrifying world. It is the story of two children striving, and failing, and then not failing. It is the story of two children finding out the meanings of things.
Before I go on, a word of warning: Grimm’s stories—the ones that weren’t changed for little kids—are violent and bloody. And what you’re going to hear now, the one true tale in The Tales of Grimm, is as violent and bloody as you can imagine.
So if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now.
You see, the land of Grimm can be a harrowing place. But it is worth exploring. For, in life, it is in the darkest zones one finds the brightest beauty and the most luminous wisdom.
And, of course, the most blood.
From A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. © 2012 by Adam Gidwitz. Used by permission of Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Group.