Duck Duck Book


11 – clever maids
02.7.2005, 12:04 am
Filed under: history & geography, social sciences

Clever maids : the secret history of the Grimm fairy tales / Valerie Paradiž.
New York : Basic, c2005.
0738209171 (hardback)
[MCL call number: B-G864p 2005; two copies, no holds]

Paradiž asserts in her introduction that Grimm scholars have a secret that’s not been shared with the world at large — the brothers Grimm did not go nobbing around with the actual volk to collect their famous fairy stories; instead they gathered them from young women of their own relatively privileged and educated class, beginning with a family of sisters who were friends of their own sister Lotte. In the notes that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm kept while gathering stories, they kept track of which ladies told them each version of each tale, but they never credited the women in their published works.

Clever Maids is written in the form of a biography of the brothers and their work, with an emphasis on the female origins of the fairy tales, and with (so far, I’m only about 40% of the way through the book) a feminist analysis of both the tales and the circumstances in which the brothers recorded and eventually published them. Paradiž’s writing is clear and her own storytelling is compelling. The book is reminding me of Grimm tales I read as a child but had since forgotten, and giving me new grounds for appreciating their worth as elements of our culture. The text is followed by a bibliography and index.

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