Brother Gaiman’s fairy tales

Neil Gaiman took over my life with one quote from Sandman. “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it?” 24, angsty, angry about love and stories. Gaiman came in like a perfect salve to fix me with words. I wanted to write like him, I wanted his brain and more than anything I wanted to feel like him.

What resulted from this obsession was a dive into Ocean at the End of the Lane (one of my most favourite books ever), American Gods, Neverwhere, Smoke and Mirrors and another pile waiting to be devoured. Six years and counting I still cannot wean myself off his magic – and in all honesty, why would I even try?

While I am horribly ashamed to admit that I have not managed to get my hands on Sandman yet, I was uber excited about The Graveyard Books with its spanking new illustrations.  

The Graveyard Book – Volume I and II has been graphically  adapted by P Craig Russell (winner of the Harvey and Eisner Awards) and has illustrations by Kevin Nowlan, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thomson, David Lafeunte and Stephen B Scott – the big guns of graphic art. Each chapter, over the two volumes, of this Carnegie and Newbery Medal Winner piece is drawn by a separate artist.

So, not only do you get the stunning story of Nobody Owens and Silas and then some – you get this incredible piece of nothing-short-of-a-collectible book and it comes at an incredible price of Rs 399 from Bloomsbury. Gift them to yourself if no one cares enough about you to get you these.

And since we are talking adaptations – here I must throw in The Sleeper and the Spindle (illustrated by Chris Riddell) and Hansel and Gretel – A Darkly Brilliant Fairy Tale (Illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti) – both by Bloomsbury. The Grimm brothers were cool. Brother Gaiman takes what they made and goes ninja. In the The Sleeper and the Spindle Gaiman fuses the story of the supine Sleeping Beauty with a kick-ass queen and the rest is history. Actually no, the rest is magical fairytale with some beautiful homo-eroticism weaved in. You have witches, dwarves, princesses and a warrior queen – not your usual Brother Grimm’s formula but this could be the new winning one.
Disney’s Maleficent took the old story up a notch by making the kiss of true love come from a mother/guardian figure instead of a (boring) prince. Gaiman trumps it with his ace. If this doesn’t deserve a standing ovation in the world of fairy tales – what does?

Hansel and Gretel comes to you with a lot less pictures (if we are really comparing the two) than The Sleeper and the Spindle – but they are incredible works of ink that pull you down deep into this “darkly brilliant” work. The story isn’t reworked – Gaiman sticks to the tale. But the illustrations work their magic and how. We have all read this story as children but we have never imagined it the way Mattotti has.

The movie adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel story – Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) that starred Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, took the original story ahead transforming the once-traumatised-by-a-witch siblings into hunters who took their childhood bravery and turned it into a profession. The movie bombed in the box office. This book won’t. Is there a space and a scope for reworked and readapted fairy tales in this era? I’d say why not while others will say – grow up already! But these books are nothing sort of ink and colour magic. There is always space for Gaiman no matter what the era is.

Pick up these books – I assure you will thank me and your kids too.
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