This was one of my favorites among the Grimm fairy tales growing up. I had an audio version (LP) of it that I played so many times that I would probably have a able to speak along.
A real title for a neglected tale
The original title is “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” Or rather: this is one of the earliest literal translations. A strange one, isn’t it? As if the Grimms had this story, wanted to include it in their collection, but didn’t have a good name for it. So they just used a brief summary.
Well, as a translator with the freedom of working with a story in the public domain, I decided it was time for a real title. Maybe you agree with my choice; maybe you can come up with something better. If you do, please drop me a line – I’d be curious to see.
As I started translating, I remembered the LP cover that I had stared at so many times when I was young. This story just begs to be illustrated. So I asked my long-time friend Matthias Hintz if he would like to collaborate on this. Luckily he did, and his imagination and prowess with all kinds of mixed media really adds to the story.
Matthias did not want to paint scenes or otherwise follow the story content too closely. Instead, we talked about key aspects of specific sections, and he went wild.
Our goal was to give his art room and use the text to provide continuity. So we let the words dance around the images.
A scary world
Of course, some of these images will be scary for little children. I can only say: that is okay. When I was five, my parents bought me another LP with a very scary cover (“Hui Buh”). That one had to go to the very top of the closet so there was no way of me seeing it by accident. But within weeks, I was ready to face my fear: I asked my parents to retrieve it, and I enjoyed listening to the story for many years.
The Grimm stories are violent and scary. Some of them were never meant for children and a few (“Bluebeard”) are outright terrifying. The popular favorites (“Snow White”, “Cinderella”) have brutal details. However, children can take them in stride. I speak from experience here. The world is just a scary place, and it does not hurt to come to grips with that fact in the safe context of a story.
Maybe this book will creep out your children enough to ask you to hide it. Hopefully, though, they will some day demand to see the book again and inspect Matthias’ images with fascination.
The book is available here.