BBC Radio 4 presents a Start The Week programme about the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Every four or five years, someone reads the Grimm Brothers' tales and discovers that they are nasty, brutish and short, and, to many modern sensibilities, not suitable for children. I grew up on an unsanitized version, I think - I certainly remember the Ugly Sister cutting off her big toe in order to fit her foot into Cinderella's glass slipper - and I'm fairly certain that all of it - being eaten by wolves, being trapped and fattened for the oven by witches - washed over me without the slightest psychic dent though YMMV. The stories were not collected (as you might naively imagine) from little old goat ladies living in wheeled cabins in the forest, but from the middle class friends of the Grimm's and their house servants. There was no intent at the time to collect children's stories, only to collect folk tales.
The collection of tales is now about to celebrate its bicentennial. Start The Week rounds up some enormously erudite Men (and Women) of Letters to talk about this again, and what is remarkable about the program is the way all the guests know what they are talking about and are able to express themselves with quiet authority. After the US elections over here, anything that is not an imploding know-nothing howl of anger, outrage and one-upmanship sounds as though it originated on another planet, and I guess it did - Planet BBC.
Planet BBC is having its own howls and implosions over l'affaire Savile - I'm not sure if there's anyone left in the directors' suite after the recent resignations - but it certainly appears that when it needs to round up the literary experts, it remains unsurpassed. Philip Pullman, a man who writes in magical terms, is the author of the recent book being gently an unobtrusively plugged, Grimm Tales for Young and Old, and Sarah Maitland is an author whose Gossip From the Forest looked at the woodland origins of European folk tales. Other contributors slide into the conversation in remarkably agreeable ways.
Listen here (43 minutes)