- Megan Bingham
The Singing Bones is a unique and brilliant take on the Brothers Grimm and their timeless folktales that have traveled through the ages.
The Brothers Grimm have influenced storytelling over the last few centuries by collecting German folktales. Most of us were raised on their tales stories, such as Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), and Cinderella. There are, of course, the lesser known tales such as The Fisherman and His Wife, The Robber Bridegroom, and The Goose Girl. Each and every one of the Grimms' tales allow us to escape reality and entertains us in the process. Neil Gaiman, author of Corlaine, The Sandman graphic novels, and other dark fantasy, states in his introduction to American edition of The Singing Bones: "People need stories. It's one of the things that makes us who we are." If we didn't have tales like the Brothers Grimm, it would be quite difficult to understand ourselves.
For example, the spooky tale of "Little Red Cap" (Little Red Riding Hood) includes the following lines:
"Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have!"
"The better to hear you with."
"Oh, Grandmother, what big hands you have!"
"The better to grab you with."
"Oh, grandmother, what a terribly big mouth you have!"
"The better to eat you with!"
Although some of the dialogue is altered to go with modern storytelling, the main idea still comes across: we know how dangerous the wolf may be and we know that Little Red Cap is in very big trouble.
Accompanying each shortened fairy tale are the unusual and surreal sculptures of Shaun Tan (The Arrival, Lost and Found). His sculptures are not at all detailed—in fact, Tan is extremely minimalistic in his creations. By doing this, Tan leaves the reader to decide how the art corresponds with the fairy tale. The tale of Rapunzel is accompanied by a sculpture of a very lean, plain-looking girl, and the only color on the sculpture is her long, yellow hair. The minimalistic quality of Tan's sculptures is astounding, and, instead of looking like the stories, they feel like the stories instead.
A few of my personal favorites are "All Fur," "Mother Trudy," and "Snow White." If your a fairy-tale aficionado, The Singing Bones is a great read for you.