- Grimms’ Tales Around the Globe: The Dynamics of Their International Reception ed. by Vanessa Joosen and Gillian Lathey
In our multicultural world, it is particularly important to discuss the international character and movement of fairy tales. A typical American class on the subject will enroll students from a variety of countries, and as a scholarly discipline, the study of fairy tales is of course a global one. Much scholarship still focuses on what we might call the classic fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen, but there has been significant recent attention to a wider variety of tales. Vanessa Joosen and Gillian Lathey’s Grimms’ Tales Around the Globe: The Dynamics of Their International Reception has a different, but equally valuable focus: it examines the Grimms’ tales in translation, considering the international reception of Kinder- und Hausmärchen in a variety of countries and regions, including Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
Why the Grimms? One obvious reason is the popularity of the tales they collected. According to Joosen and Lathey, the UNESCO translation index lists the Grimms among “the top ten most frequently translated authors in the world” (1), and they have influenced literature, particularly for children, more than almost any other author. Together with Perrault and Andersen, they have created our idea of what fairy tales are. But there is another reason the Grimms are particularly appropriate subjects for such a study. They gave us not only the tales in Kinder- und Hausmärchen, but also the image of the folklorist, [End Page 237] who spends time traveling and gathering tales from the folk themselves. As recent scholarship indicates, this idealized image does not fit the actual practice of the Grimms: however, it influenced folklore movements around the world. Its impact becomes evident in the essays by Marijana Hameršak, Monika Wozniak, and Dechao Li, who discuss how the Grimms inspired indigenous fairy tale movements in Croatia, Poland, and China respectively.
Joosen and Lathey identify the Grimms’ tales as “written folklore” (5): tales presented in print that are nevertheless treated as folktales, which could be widely translated and adapted, often without attribution. Even more readily than the tales of Perrault or Andersen, the Grimms’ tales could be altered by adding local characteristics and by changing the moral tenor of the tales to suit a particular culture and time period. As the editors point out, “Although many folklorists relied heavily on romantic concepts of originality, authenticity, and local character in discussing the importance of the Grimms’ legacy for their own culture, the international reception of the Grimm tales tells a recurrent story of borrowings, adaptations, and cultural hybrids” (6). This book begins to trace those movements and changes.
A collection like this cannot cover everything, and the editors are explicit about what has been left out: there are no studies of the Grimms’ tales in Africa, the Middle East, or the Americas other than Colombia. It is, as Joosen and Lathey state, “an introduction to the range of cross-cultural interpretations to date” (13), and it accomplishes that goal admirably. The general introduction to the Grimms’ fairy tales and the factors that have affected their cultural transmission and adaptation, from the 1812 edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen to modern American television shows such as Grimm, provides a useful overview. The book itself is divided into two sections. The first, Cultural Resistance and Assimilation, focuses on how the tales were adapted in various countries, including Croatia, Poland, Spain, Colombia, Korea, China, India, and Japan. The second, Reframings, Paratexts, and Multimedia Translations, focuses on how the tales were contextualized by prefaces and illustrations or filtered through other media such as comic books, manga, films, and television shows. For example, focusing on English translations, Ruth Bottigheimer demonstrates how prefaces to the Grimms’ tales revealed changing attitudes toward fairy tales in general, from skepticism about their ancient provenance to acceptance of the Grimms’ view that they represented an authentic literature of the folk, and Sara Hines examines how various...