I opened Grimmer Tales randomly at first and happened upon the two-page story Pinocchio’s Dentist. Pinocchio tells his dentist, “I floss my teeth every day.” The next panel shows the good doctor impaled through the eye by the liar’s nose. I laughed out loud.
If you don’t share that kind of sense of humor, then Grimmer Tales is perhaps not for you. Featuring sometimes all-too-literal interpretations of classic fairy tales (the cow jumping over the moon and dying from the extreme cold and lack of oxygen is another favorite), the book is hilariously grim and vicious.
Erik Bergstrom apparently wants to take us back to the days when fairy tales were dark and foreboding and warned us against trusting others (he says as much in his foreword). He’s got a warped sense of humor, too, and that drives the wickedly funny point home throughout the book, which begins with a particularly graphic variation on Little Boy Blue.
It turns out Pinocchio’s nose growing to become a death-wielding sword is a repeated theme in Grimmer Tales. It’s (arguably) a gag that doesn’t get old, especially because Pinocchio is depicted clearly as a knotty wooden puppet—no cleaned-up boy made flesh here.
Other personal favorites in the book: Grumpy’s new gig as a Brazilian cage fighter, Cinderella’s twig- and nest-like dress made by birds, and the side-by-side comparison of the Tortoise and the Hare in surgery. The book is absurd, but really, no more so than the stories it is based on. And it’s definitely funnier than the cleaned-up versions floating around storybooks today.
Reviewed by John Hogan on December 9, 2009