REVIEW BY HILARY LAWLOR
Remember the version of Cinderella you watched as a child, with sweetly singing mice and satisfyingly frustrated stepsisters whose feet just wouldn’t fit in the glass slipper? Remember how the adorable fairy godmother swirled some sparkles over Cinderella’s head and made her into a total babe in that huge blue dress? Well, it was all a pretty lie.
In the original, authentic version of the Cinderella folktale that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected in the early 19th century, the stepsisters sliced off their toes and heels to fit their feet into a pure-gold pump that probably weighed about 15 pounds. The blood oozing out of the shoe and all over the prissy prince’s carriage was the only thing that gave them away as pretenders to the Cinderella throne, because the prince apparently had no capacity for facial recognition. There were singing animals, yes, but they were pigeons, and they had a silly tendency to peck people’s eyes out to exact revenge. The fairy godmother was another pigeon who threw fancy things at Cinderella from a tree.
Everyone knows that the original versions of old fairy tales are much more interesting (read: violent) than the versions that are generally presented to kids today, but reading the authentic stories is still pretty jarring—and it should be. These tales were intended to scare mores into a people who dealt with a lot of very scary everyday occurrences. Forget about disease and starvation: keep your promises, or a hedgehog man will stick you with quills until you’re covered in blood. Be nice to ugly people, or you’ll be turned into a donkey and whipped daily until you die. By that same token, the illustrations that accompany these tales in a published volume should not be the beautiful, dainty drawings of Arthur Rackham, wherein twelve dancing princesses jog through a forest. No, they should be more like the amazing, upsetting, sexually-explicit drawings and paintings of Natalie Frank. Reading this book took me a lot longer than I thought it would, because I had to keep stopping to examine her illustrations. It was always a toss-up as to which was more alarming—the stories themselves or the beautiful, terrifying drawings—but I’m so excited to have this book on my shelves for a long time to come. If I ever have kids, they’re going to hear all sides of the story.