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  • Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales by Jack Zipes
  • Klaus L. Berghahn
Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms’ Folk and Fairy Tales. By Jack Zipes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. 267 pages + 8 b/w illustrations. $35.00.

With his latest book, Jack Zipes has established his own legacy in folk and fairy tales research. Since 1979 he has published fifteen books on this subject and as many [End Page 639] editions, among them the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (2000) and The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature (4 volumes, 2006). His book on the Grimm Legacies sums up his research on the subject and enlarges it by reflecting on the reception of the Grimm Fairy Tales in the German- and English-speaking world in the twentieth century. It does not happen often that a collection of essays comes together so cohesively in one volume.

Between 1806 and 1863 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm established their legacy by collecting and publishing German folk and fairy tales, which became the legendary anthology of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen. They have been translated into 150 languages. Without this legacy, Walt Disney could not have established his own entertainment empire in the twentieth century. Through his “Americanization of the Grimms’ fairy tales,” the Grimm name became a trademark for children’s literature (Chapter Three). Other lesser-known legacies include the early translations, adaptations, and illustrations such as German Popular Stories by Edgar Taylor (1823 and 1826), which also introduced a peasant woman, Gammer Grethel, as narrator (Chapter One and Two). In Chapter Four, Zipes concentrates on the literary and filmic adaptations of the fairy tales in the twentieth century in Germany. Next he looks at superheroes from Greek mythology all the way to the Grimm brothers’ “How Six Made Their Way in the World.” The sixth chapter explores the legacy of the Brothers Grimm in the twenty-first century and criticizes the manner in which contemporary English-speaking writers, artists, and filmmakers have abused the Grimm legacy.

In an epilogue, “A Curious Legacy: Ernst Bloch’s Enlightened View of the Fairy Tale and Utopian Longing,” Zipes brings together his curiosity about fairy tales with his other interest in utopian thinking. For Bloch, fairy tales were one more expression of utopian longing, as he stated in two essays from 1930 and 1959. The first, “The Fairy Tale Moves on Its Own Time,” deals with ancient and modern fairy tales that indicate the possibilities of change and the fulfillment of dreams. The second, “Better Castles in the Sky at the Country Fair and Circus, in Fairy Tales and Colportage,” included in his Prinzip Hoffnung, describes fairy tales as cunning and courageous, even rebellious, in overcoming difficulties. In bringing together fairy tales with sideshows of country fairs and circus performances, Bloch demonstrates once more that all popular culture has traces of utopian qualities and offers a glow of possible change. In the end, Zipes even combines his reflections on fairy tales with Bloch’s Marxism, expressed by the latter in an interview with Theodor Adorno: “Thus, Marxism in its entirety […] is only a condition for a life in freedom, life in happiness, life in possible fulfillment, life with content” (195). What a surprising conclusion for a book on fairy tales!

Klaus L. Berghahn
University of Wisconsin–Madison


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pp. 639-640
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