Cautionary tales with a side of singing

A recent book review sparked my interest. Some publishing houses are really pulling out the stops and know just how to attract readers! Take a look at this!

I was intrigued and did what I do far too many times–took a quick jaunt over to Amazon. I like to support businesses that acknowledge me on a first name basis. Then, a big surprise to me and probably a shock to my family as well as the guy who drives the Amazon delivery truck right up to our door, I did NOT purchase…not yet anyway.

The temptation is there, but then temptation is a key element of many cautionary tales, and the Brothers Grimm are perhaps our most familiar purveyors of warning.  One source notes that unless  you’re reading the “lightened up” fairy tales, the Disney-fied condensed versions, some fables should only be read “to kids you hate.” A harsh statement? I think perhaps they got it right.

Even Disney can be too much for me–think of Bambi or Dumbo.

When Sophia was in preschool I would read to her from a beautiful book that told the story of Bambi. It was not a “baby book’ but geared for young children with a well-developed attention span. I had a problem reading it to her, however, because I had to be lightning fast with story substitutions. She loved the flirtatious play between Bambi and Faline, but I couldn’t manage to read the parts involving Bambi’s mother and the hunter. Mothers don’t fare well in these fables.  Come to think of it, neither do fathers.

The truth is that I do find the brothers rather “grim,”   but I’ll admit I’m fascinated.  Then again, fascination is one of the major pitfalls in the majority of cautionary tales. Beware!

Musical entertainment is always my first choice and generally a lighter way for me to absorb a dark story.

I hope that many of you will make the effort to see the current release of “Into the Woods.” If you are not familiar with the original play, let me assure you that although older children might enjoy the movie, it is not primarily for children. Familiar fairy tale characters enter other stories in the most unique and creative unfolding to remind us all to be careful what we wish for, what we dream about, what we run after…temptation and lust and greed–and so much more. The brilliant Stephen Sondheim allowed some changes to make his wonderful work more cinematic, with some scenes less graphic and violent than the stage play. Disney has experience in this area. Nothing replaces live musical theater, but this is a good adaptation.  Read what Variety has to say for a much better review than I can provide. I’d see it again simply for Meryl Streep’s performance.

And my granddaughters are now ready to begin enjoying some of the live performances that are plentiful in Los Angeles.


Two grandmothers, two mommies and four cousins went into Hollywood to see the stage production of Wicked at the famed Pantages Theater. Their oldest cousin had previously attended, but for the younger three this was the first time to see a performance of this magnitude. They were so excited and I don’t think Karina, the youngest at five, even moved. I did have to tap her lightly when at one point she started to hum.

I won’t admit how many times I’ve seen this play, but it grows in richness each time and like much of what we enjoy in theater, music or literature, there are deep layers of story to stimulate thought–or, as in the case of the children not quite old enough to catch those cautionary themes, just sit back and take in the music, and wonder, as Sophia questioned, “What do they use to get her to fly?”

I’m listening to my personal warnings–my own cautionary tale. About that Princeton University Press release of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm– I am really tempted. But then, how many books can one stack about the house before they become a physical threat? I DO live in California Earthquake territory.

Maybe if you share your favorite cautionary tale I’ll be distracted and forget about my Amazon wish list? Help me out, please!

58 thoughts on “Cautionary tales with a side of singing

  1. Well I’m afraid I’m no help at all – we’re avid readers, and we find it impossible to part with really good books. Trouble is, most of the books we read are really good and we have bookshelves full of books that are ever-expanding. I have a large leather-bound copy of all the original Brothers Grimm stories, and I was surprised at first to find that some of them seemed like short story concepts rather than fleshed-out tales. Others, as you pointed out, truly are GRIM and not “Disneyfied”. We’re planning to see Into The Woods soon. Like you, I’ve never been able to handle Bambi or Dumbo – nor the movie Old Yeller. I’m not good with loss, whether personal or scripted – I tend to feel it deeply. Sorry I can’t help stop you from another Amazon order….I just ordered two more books there last week and I still have five to read that I got as Christmas gifts!

    1. I knew you were a reader, so I should have presumed you would also have the same “book addiction” that I have. I think for avid readers and book lovers it’s just a guilty pleasure–and maybe not all that guilty! Your copy of the original Brothers Grimm stories is a treasure! I am not very familiar with most of the original stories and my interest is growing, so maybe I’ll give in before long and get this book. Ha! It’s so funny you mentioned Old Yeller, because I was just telling someone about that the other day. I saw it once, and once was enough. I was completely undone by that movie! I think you’ll like Into the Woods. I’m glad it’s doing well in the theaters–I’d like more musicals to make it to the big screen. Thank you for sharing your book purchasing habit–although you didn’t do a thing to help me with my problem! 🙂

    1. Well, there’s the problem, Nancy. LOL! I did the math–I couldn’t possibly live long enough to read the books I already have. Hahaha! But that hasn’t stopped me thus far…I’m sure I’ll get it at some point. I’m so glad you know Wicked. It’s amazing, isn’t it? 🙂

  2. Fortunately, there is only one avid book reader in this house … and she’s switched to electronic books (most of the time) … so that helps. Then again, I imagine you have that, too.

    I’ve only seen Wicked once, but it was wonderful. Not surprised the girls were glued. The lead’s voice was WOW! A question that you (if anybody) would know …. is a film version planned?

    1. Yes, a film version of Wicked is slated for 2016. I heard this recently and think the source was reliable! It would do well, so that could be very exciting. And yes, I do have a Kindle, but somehow I still have more books than I could possibly read in one lifetime. Blogging has seriously affected how many books I read, but I live on hope! 🙂 I rationalize that I could have worse habits, but as we assess our ability to downsize, books are a major problem. LOL!

  3. How fun! So glad that the 8 of you got to take in WICKED!

    I have a book by Gregory Maguire on my nightstand ~ Mirror Mirror ~ which according to some reviewers is as Wicked Good as Wicked! It’s the back story to Snow White.

    1. I have Mirror Mirror as well, and haven’t yet read it. I am sure it’s very good! I heard that Wicked will be a major motion picture in 2016, so even more people can be introduced to such a fabulous story. We did have a wonderful time–it rained, too! 🙂 I hope you can get a little more reading done yourself with recent changes to your writing schedule, Nancy!

  4. What a fabulous photo of all of you. I love it, and such memories you are all making together, however, I’m not going to be much help with your Amazon dilemma, Debra. You know me and books. 🙂 I just took a bag of books to Goodwill – and then went to the bookstore and bought some more. Sigh. I guess I’m trying to say that just go ahead and through caution to the wind and buy the book. 🙂

    1. I have a birthday in March–maybe I’ll hint really broadly and then if it’s a gift, I won’t feel guilty! LOL! I completely relate to “one bag out and another back in.” It is rather hopeless. At least from what I can tell you’re reading more than I am, Penny. I buy books with the hope that I’ll read them. Oh well, eventually I do, but I’m just slow these days. A few that are in my pile are a result of ones you’ve recommended, so you can see that you are part of the problem. Hahaha!

  5. Firstly I love the photo… as for books I collect them as though I’m the local library… Wicked I’ve not seen.. but books do have an attraction, if for nothing else, but that wonderful new smell that ebooks can’t supply. .. my own book, soon to be published, has little to no attra ction to me in ebook form as adding photos is a waste, but the published form with photos is more appealing…. what to do? Not sure….

  6. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could all share some of these books we all collect! I’m sure people who don’t enjoy reading wonder at why we own so many books, but we readers understand one another don’t we! How wonderful that your books is nearing publication, Rob! I know it has been a labor of love, but LABOR indeed. I do have many e-books, but art and photography or cookbooks really aren’t appealing in electronic form and need to physically accessible. I read a lot on my Kindle, but I still have a pile of books by my bed! And there’s always room for one more. 🙂

  7. Ah, but Grimm are for a different kind of reading. Dip-in, dip-out. All fairy stories are like chocolate for me: I need a fix every now and then. Horror has been a part of my life since I read the Grimm Cinderella aged 5. And I feel sure there is a reason these dark tales endure in every culture (Russian are far and away the best!). They help us to face frightening things head on through story, to deal with uncomfortable feelings and taboos we in our stuffed-shirt British society would never talk about. To me, folk tales are superlative and I must have them! Paying for a re-marketed set of Grimm? I’m not sure about that. I load up the Gutenberg version on my Kindle; and if I want pictures I’ll get my daughter to draw them. Across the road is a serviceable forest. Sorted.

    Gutenberg Grimm – a translation from The text is based on translations from the Grimms’ Kinder und Hausmarchen by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes, is at

    1. Thank you very much for the link, Kate. I just downloaded several of the fables and it appears there are many more available. I trust your impression that the newly released book may simply be superfluous. I have followed your interest in these dark tales for a couple of years now and I think your enthusiasm as well as sharing scenes from many have contributed to my growing curiosity and interest. I appreciate your interpretation of why the tales have such endurance and cross all cultures. I do think “dipping in and out” will be the way to go and ‘m quite eager to get started. Alas I have no one as talented as Maddie to offer me any illustrations, but I have an active imagination–which ironically is one reason I probably haven’t been reading these fables. 🙂 I’m so glad you could stop by, Kate. I think you’re quite well-informed about these marvelous tales!

  8. la_lasciata

    I loved the extended family photo, beautiful Debra ! – but as for reading recommendations … alas, not from this non-reader. 😦

    1. I’m so glad I could share a family photo with you, M-R. My daughter is comfortable with photos and sharing the family, while my son and other family members have given me a strong “NO” to sharing. Anyone who follows so many blogs and reads enough to comment and participate in this crazy blogging exercise, IS a reader. You just don’t have the accompany clutter of books. 🙂

    1. If you decide you want to give some of the Grimm tales a “go,” Colleen, Kate has left a wonderful link (in a comment above) directly to the Gutenberg Project and free manuscript downloads of excellent translations of the tales. I’m going to dip in and take a look around. 🙂 I’m curious to see if I enjoy them!

        1. I didn’t have any problem! I wonder what that could mean? Have you previously accessed the Gutenberg Project? I have, so maybe I have cookies. If you aren’t familiar with the site it is definitely worth playing around. Classics with expired copyrights are generally free. I hope you can find some gems!!

          1. No I’ve never been to the site before. The explanation for not letting me in gave me ‘directions’ if it wasn’t letting me in on things to try….they didn’t work either. I’ll try again now….

  9. Grimm gave me nightmares as a child (as did Old Yeller) so I steer away from anything that looks remotely Grimm. To this day if an animal dies in a movies, I’m outta there! I converted to ebooks a couple years back because I was running out of room and was hauling cartons to book donation places. Many books aren’t worth keeping although some become precious with a need to revisit from time to time. For some reason (maybe because it makes me laugh) Marley and all the goofy Evanovich books are in that category! Guess I’m not a book snob for sure!

    1. Oh I’m right there with you about animals in movies. I remember sitting in theaters with friends and seeing several movies where unexpectedly an animal would either harmed or killed and I’d just lose it! I still have to be kind of careful what I see or it can be entirely too upsetting. I do consider myself a light-weight! I think we read for pleasure and whatever that is, it’s good! I think some of the “lightest” mysteries have been real page turners and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. If we could all share our books we could sure eliminate some of the clutter. 🙂

    1. I would love to see Wicked in NYC, Lori. I think somehow that would be the pinnacle. I have had some wonderful theater experiences, though, and i’m fortunate to have easy access. I read there are plans to take the stage production and make it a movie. I think that would be wonderful! So many more people would be able to see it for the first time!

  10. Here in Germany I haven’t heard of Wicked, but it looks as if it’s fun with flying witches…. I used to like the Grimm tales as a child, but became more sensitive to their “grimmess” as I got older! LOL! A collection of all the tales would be lovely though…

    1. Wicked is a very popular musical in the United States and I assume Great Britain, Cathy. It is loosely based on the the story of the friendship between the two witches in the Wizard of Oz and how their lives were connected. It’s quite grand. It will be made into a movie in the next year or so and maybe you’ll have access to that. If so, I hope you’ll remember my recommendation. 🙂 I’m going to take a look at the Grimm Fairy Tales by way of the Gutenberg Project and a free download. That will give me a chance to see how I do with them. I’m not sure I’m ready. LOL!

  11. I used to have a book of all the Grimm brothers’ fairytales. It’s amazing how graphic and terrifying the stories are and they were read to me as a young child! I also used to get very upset at the beginning of Bambi. I’d cry as Bambi became an orphan due to a cruel hunter. Where are the happy stories to read to five year olds? How lovely to have a day out with all the grandchildren to see ‘Wicked’. I still haven’t seen it yet. I wanted to see it when I was in NYC but alas, ran out of time. I must get to the Sydney version xx

    1. I don’t believe that I have ever read one of the original Grimm tales, Charlie. I don’t tend to read things that are too dark and gruesome, but for some reason I have a sudden desire to give them a try! It should be interesting. Oh I do hope you get the chance to see Wicked. It’s guaranteed you’d enjoy it. I think your whole family would really appreciate it–there really is a lot to it, and much more than the “Wizard of Oz” themes. It has quite a message! You enjoyed NYC so much, you may just need to come back. 🙂

  12. I agree, the brothers are Grimm,And Disney has gone badboy-badgirl. But my daughter was (is) a Wizard of Oz fanatic. Will be joining here in Atlanta for the Wicked Show, in February I think. She’s 29 now, so, I don;t have to worry about what she watches. As a child, there was no worries either. I only had to plug in a Wizard of Oz tape… and she watched it over and over. I wondered about her a bit in those days.
    She turned out better than me though.
    Great writings… thanks

    1. I really enjoyed reading that your daughter has a lifelong love with the stories from the Wizard of Oz, and to think of what excitement she will experience with the stage play. It’s a tremendous work of art. I think you’ll enjoy it, too, but perhaps even more as a parent knowing she is so thrilled. Thank you so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation. 🙂

  13. I’m no help at all either, I love photos of homes with rooms full of stacked books, lol! I read the original Brother’s Grimm as a child and I still have a very faint recollection of the terror of one of those fairytales.. something quite gruesome that is with me to this day! My vote, buy the book! xx

    1. I have never been critical when I enter a home with lots of books, either, Smidge. I will more than likely buy this particular book at some point, but I think I’ll do a little more homework first. I don’t want to purchase a book I’m too afraid to read. 🙂

  14. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and consider my concerns about buying too many books. LOL! I’m still undecided on this particular edition of the Brothers Grimm. If I don’t buy this one, though, there’s sure to be an occasion to purchase something else. I could use a little more time to read, however. 🙂

  15. Debra, I must admit my book time has been reduced lately, but I love to read as well. My favourite Maguire was “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister”. I just finished “Son of a Witch” but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Oh well, win some, lose some. I share your dilema about purchasing yet another book – but they are SO tempting!

  16. I’m with you Debra! We all saw Into the Woods last weekend and just loved it! Well, three out of the four of us did. Mike thought it was fine. Too long for his taste. The rest of us certainly enjoyed it though. Love what they did with it. I also love the picture of the grandmas and kids! Very cute. 🙂

    1. Oh i’m so glad you saw Into the Woods! I haven’t always been enthusiastic about stage plays turned into movies, but I enjoyed this very much. The girls enjoyed themselves at the theater, and I look forward to many more performances through the years. I’m glad I could share a little family photo! 🙂

  17. I just love the family photo, Debra, and can imagine how much fun you all had. I haven’t seen Into The Woods or Wicked, but I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales for myself as a child, for all the reasons Kate Shrewsday expresses so well. I think children like to be frightened in a way they can control, shutting the book when it becomes too much. Our children preferred Old Peter’s Russian Tales for their touch of folktale horror. 🙂

  18. I would prefer the original tales from the Brothers Grimm over any Disney remake any old day. As to how many books one can stack in the house before they become a physical threat, I would say no limits. At least that’s what I live by…

  19. I’m not sure that this is a cautionary tale but…

    I turned up at St.Pancras one morning intending to travel to Bedford before catching the local services back stopping off at various stations for photography. The 10:00 service was due to call at St.Albans and Bedford so I bought my ticket and went to the barrier. I showed my ticket to the collector on the gate and he clipped it for me. I boarded and settled down. After a short time the train moved off…

    …I thought “that’s early!” and checking the watch, it was! I was on the 09:55 Master Cutler service to Sheffield, first stop Leicester. Embarrassing or what! Fortunately it was an error by the station staff with the wrong platform number displayed and the error not spotted by the ticket man on the barrier – I wasn’t the only passenger on the wrong train though I suspect I was the happiest! The guard apologised for the inconvenience caused and suggested I catch the next train back to Bedford from Leicester.

    …Perhaps it has a moral for the ordinary passenger? 😉

    I don’t think the Grimness of the Brothers is likely to be my personal cup of tea. I do have a favorite story or two that perhaps make me think about morality and choices that have to be made – Round the Bend by Nevil Shute is one such. If you haven’t then I suggest you give it a read 🙂

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