I was enchanted with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales from the moment I read them as a little girl, sick and lonely in hospital. I was only seven, but I still remember the transformative experience of reading the tales by myself for the first time.
I had been given a copy of the edition translated by Lucy Crane in 1882, and illustrated by the exquisite line drawings of her brother Walter. The tales were bound in red leather with gilt lettering, like something rare and precious. That book began for me a lifelong fascination with fairy tales.
Like many people, I thought the Grimm brothers had lived long, long ago, and had travelled around Germany collecting stories from old women hunched over their spinning wheels in cottages hidden deep in the forest. My view of their lives and work was romantically coloured by the film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Wilhelm Grimm (played by the brooding Lithuanian-born actor Laurence Harvey) neglects his work as a researcher for a duke, collecting folk-tales instead and scribbling them down each night in his garret. Poor and desperate, he ends up feverishly ill with pneumonia. Then all the fairy tale characters from his tales appear to him in a dream, begging him not to die.