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Real Fairy Tales (the antidote to princess overload)

After a weekend of watching Disney movies with my sick daughter, and many requests for “one more story” from an insipid book of fairy tales with a puffy pastel cover, I was suffering from Princess Fatigue Syndrome. You know you have a problem when you are lecturing your 3-year-old about how hard work is honorable and worthwhile, but Cinderella was the victim of unfair labor practices… Her little eyes glazed over and I knew I’d lost her when she responded by pointing out that in the Disney version Cinderella’s dress was blue and in the book it is yellow. Why, Mama? That book needed to get “lost,” fast.

So I went to our local Daunt Books to look for a suitable replacement. I don’t mind fairy tales in principle, but the modern retellings were so poorly written and, to me, often seemed to miss the point. (For example, in our puffy pastel Cinderella, a surly Cinderella scowls her way through the story until the moment she gets her way.) I found what I was looking for almost immediately: a Taschen edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with more traditional translations and illustrations from the 1920s.

Bedtime was about to get interesting again. Because this book has more blood and guts than Tarantino, and not a Fairy Godmother in sight. In its version of Cinderella, the step-mother hands each of her daughters a knife and advises them to cut off parts of their feet to make the prince’s slipper fit. Which they do. And the prince doesn’t notice the difference until some enchanted doves point it out with the haunting rhyme:

“Roocki dee goo, Roocki dee goo

There is blood in that shoe

The shoe’s too small, and not enough wide

By your side sits not the right bride”

In the end the prince finds Cinderella and they marry, but instead of “happily ever after,” we are left with the image of the step-sisters’ eyes being pecked out by the doves. This is my kind of book. My daughter listens with rapt attention and doesn’t interrupt once.

You want fairy tales, kid? Here you go.

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