Archive for the ‘Philip Pullman’ Category

Philip Pullman about the importance of fairytales in BBC interview

December 2, 2014

“There are all sorts of reasons why fairytales are important, and interesting and valuable to us”, says 2005 ALMA Laureate Philip Pullman in an interview with BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark.

“One thing is that they´re engaged with very deep human themes. The difficulties of being a stepparent, the trauma of being hungry and unable to find anything to eat, the thrill and excitement of being young, adventurous and finding your way in the world. These are things that the fairytales deals with.”

Two years ago Pullman released his version of the Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm (Penguin, 2012), a book which have been described as a fresh, sparkling collection of the finest stories from the Brothers Grimm, hand-picked by an author perfectly suited to the task (Library journal). Last week the Grimm Tales for Young and Old opened at Bargehouse on London’s Southbank – a “brand new immersive storytelling experience”.

Watch this rare interview produced by the BBC:

Sculptures by Shaun Tan illustrate the Grimm Tales

October 22, 2013
  'The Fisherman's Wife' Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.          'The Golden Bird' Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.          'Godfather Death' Paper, clay, paint, approx 25cm tall.

‘Godfather Death’ Paper, clay, paint, approx 25cm tall.

A masterly visual storyteller. These words are part of the quotation of the ALMA jury for the 2011 laureate, author and illustrator Shaun Tan. His book Rules of Summer (Hachette, 2013) will be published shortly, but there´s yet another reason to put Shaun Tan in the limelight today, and that’s the release of a book written by another ALMA laureate, Philip Pullman (who received the award in 2005). In Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (Penguin Books, 2012), Pullman retells his fifty favorites, paying homage to the tales that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.

The German edition of the book has recently been published by Aladin Verlag, and contains (as the only edition) illustrations made by no other than… Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is known for his use of a variety of artistic expressions and to see every book as an experiment in visual and verbal storytelling. In this case, Shaun used small sculptures to illustrate the stories:

As a child, I was actually more obsessed with sculpture than painting and drawing, working with clay, papier mache and soapstone, and was reminded of this when browsing through my collection of books on folk art and particularly Inuit scultpure and Pre-Columbian figurines from Mexico. Many of these small, hand-sized sculptures are strongly narrative and dreamlike, and offered a ‘way in’ to thinking about Grimm’s stories as part of an old creative tradition. The works I ended up creating hopefully convey the spirit of each tale without actually illustrating them, like anonymous artifacts in a museum open to all kinds of interpretation.


'Hansel and Gretel' Paper, clay, paint, wax and cake decorations, approx 25cm tall.

‘Hansel and Gretel’ Paper, clay, paint, wax and cake decorations, approx 25cm tall.

'The Golden Bird' Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.

‘The Golden Bird’ Paper, clay, paint, paint, shoepolish, approx 20cm tall.

'The Fisherman's Wife' Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.

‘The Fisherman’s Wife’ Paper, clay, paint, string, sand, approx 20cm tall.

Cover for the original German edition published by Aladin Verlag

Cover for the original German edition published by Aladin Verlag

Philip Pullman on BBC Radio

September 9, 2013


I hardly ever think of my audience. If I do, it´s only to adjust the language a little. Listen to Philip Pullman who talks about his magical worlds and the inspiration for his magic words in Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4. Link to on demand program here.

Teach all children fairy tales and Bible verses, says Philip Pullman

March 18, 2013


All children should be taught Bible verses and fairy tales, the author and 2005 ALMA recipient Philip Pullman has argued, as he said modern families are too distracted by television and the internet to tell their own stories.

In today’s Telegraph, journalist Hannah Furness reports from Philip Pullmans speech yesterday at the Oxford Literary Festival. Pullman read from his 2012 book of Grimm’s fairytales “for young and old” as he joked children should be exposed to stories, “the bloodthirstier the better”.

I think it’s very, very important that your children should know these stories,” he told the audience.

“Not all of them obviously, but the great ones, the famous ones.

“They should also know stories from the Bible and from Greek mythology.

“I think it’s important almost more than anything else – that’s what they need most of all.”

Pullman, who is perhaps most famous for his Dark Materials series, added he had previously recommended all trainee teachers learn a selection of stories to entertain their young students.

“They will never forget it and they will never forget these stories,” he said of pupils. “It is important; it really is vital.

Read more here.


Pullman’s never ending work for the values of reading and books creates headlines

December 13, 2012
Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

“I’d add in the letter accompanying that went round to all schools a quotation from Albert Einstein, a great scientist, ‘if you want your children to be intelligent read them fairytales and if you want them to be more intelligent read them more fairytales’.”

These words come from 2005 ALMA recipient Philip Pullman during a public appearance at the Economist Books of the Year event the other week. In the Sunday edition of the British newspaper the Telegraph, Pullman compares the way in which books are taught in schools to torture;

The award-winning writer of the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials criticised teachers for the “painful” way they tore stories apart to try to reveal what they “really mean”.

The result is pupils who end up hating the books, he said. Instead of being drilled and quizzed about them, children should be given time to enjoy the stories.

When you read a book, “you should get magic from it”, he said. “There should be plenty of books and plenty of time, and teachers should leave children alone.

Read full article here.

Philip Pullman’s commitment to promoting reading issues has created much attention in the media. Last year’s big and important question concerned the closure of libraries in the UK.  Pullman then declared war against ’supidity’ of library closes and stated that “A book symbolises the whole intellectual history of mankind; it’s the greatest weapon ever devised in the war against stupidity. Beware of anyone who tries to make books harder to get at.”

Ps. Did you know that his novel The Firework-Maker’s Daughter is to be turned into an opera for children? More info from the BBC News to read here.

Philip Pullman about his latest book

October 19, 2012

Photo: Leopard förlag

Versatile Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, The Ruby in the Smoke and I was a Rat!, is in the limelight with a new book (blog post October 5), this time with an interpretation of fifty of the fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers. We contacted Philip Pullman as we were curious about why exactly the Grimm Brothers became a starting point for his new book.

Hello Philip, please tell us about your latest book.
I wrote these versions of fifty of the Grimm tales because … The publisher, Penguin Classics, asked me to. I was delighted to have the chance of looking freshly at these marvellous stories, and of selecting the ones I thought most interesting from the 210 in their collection. All the famous classics had to be there (‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, and so on) but I was also very pleased to be able to include some wonderful stories that aren’t so well known, such as ‘The Three Snake Leaves’, or ‘Hans-my-Hedghog’.

I had enormous fun. In coming back to these great stories I think I learned a great deal about how the best stories work, about what makes them so compelling and powerful; and no time spent on fairy tales is time wasted. As Albert Einstein said (apparently) “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

They are still of interest to people today because above all else they are marvellous stories, full of danger, fear, excitement, happiness, humour and truth.

The first edition of the fairytales of the Grimm Brothers was published in 1812. Why do you think the tales still interest people of today?
My versions are not strict translations. There are plenty of those already. What I wanted to do was put them into a free and flowing modern English, in my voice, and to make the sort of little alterations that I’d make if I was telling them orally – cutting a bit here, adding a bit there, making this transition smoother, clarifying that motive. I thought I was allowed to do that because folk tales, which these are, are not a text in the literary sense. Wilhelm Grimm after all, made many alterations in the stories between the first edition of 1812 and the seventh of 1857 – not all of them for the better.

In what way have you been influenced by the Grimm Brothers in your own writing?
They have always influenced my own writing, but I think they’ll do so even more now. One small example: I saw how you can cut out most of your adverbs and make your work sharper and clearer. There’s a good lesson for any writer!

Philip Pullman on Grimm Tales

October 5, 2012

Photo: Clara Molden for the Telegraph

Having radically reworked the Grimm tales (first published in 1812) for all ages, multi award-winning (and 2005 ALMA recipient) author Philip Pullman has appeared frequently in the press lately.

These new versions show the adventures at their most lucid and engaging yet. Pullman’s Grimm Tales of wicked wives, brave children and villainous kings will have you reading, reading aloud and rereading them for many years to come. Here’s a very short video of the opening of Philip Pullman’s re-telling of Little Red  Riding Hood…

In late September his version of fifty of the tales of the Grimm Brothers was published. Recently, he met the Telegraph’s Nicolette Jones for an interview:

One surprising thing that Pullman’s volume reveals is that some of the details we think we know best from fairy tales – such as Cinderella’s glass slipper or the kiss for the frog prince – are not in the Grimm originals. In the Grimm tale, the frog is thrown against a wall and, as Pullman says: “he falls down a prince instead of a smashed frog”. Pullman’s annotations to the tales reveal similarities with other and later sources, though he never found the moment when the kiss got into this last story.

Part of the appeal for Pullman is the way these stories use archetypes rather than characters: “They are masks, as in the commedia dell’arte.” There is no back story, no complex motives, no internal life. Instead there is action that moves on with each paragraph. It has had an influence on Pullman’s current writing: “I am using fewer adverbs – on the whole I think adverbs are a mistake – and less description that does not move the story on.” He is still at work on his novel The Book of Dust, from the world of His Dark Materials; he began the novel 12 years ago, but interrupted it to write three other fictions, Lyra’s Oxford, Once Upon a Time in the North, The Scarecrow and His Servant, and then The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (part of the Canongate myths series), and now the Grimm retellings.

Pullman believes that fairy tales speak “about basic human situations – the very few ways we can relate to each other”. They are about men and women who marry or betray each other; about mothers who are replaced by horrible stepmothers, which is a way of letting children feel all the rage they feel towards mother. “And we have all felt the sense that Cinderella feels that ‘this is a horrible family and I don’t belong here, I am much better than this really and I ought to be a princess…’”

Read the full article here.

Tomorrow, Philip Pullman will be recording an interview of the Sky Book Show and then later that day speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, from 4-5pm. Keep up with news of Pullman’s autumn schedule on his website, available here.

Children put Pullman on the spot

March 6, 2011

Curated and designed by a panel of 100 dedicated children from all over the world, the brand new Guardian children’s book site will be very interesting to follow. Children can read reviews, participate in discussions, competitions, ask questions to their favorite authors and much more.

To celebrate the launch of the site, Philip Pullman, the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award recipient, answered fans questions about daemons, writing and life in general. For example Luke, 13, asks: Why do you think it is so important that young people read? To which Philip Pullman answers:

For the same reason that I think it’s important that they breathe, eat, drink, sleep, run about, fool around, and have people who love and look after them. It’s part of what makes us fully human. Some people manage to get through life without reading; but I know that if I’d had to do that, an enormous part of my mind, or my soul if you like, would be missing. No one should be without the chance to let their soul grow.

Read the full interview here.

Philip Pullman says: Leave the libraries alone

January 28, 2011

Last Thursday, Philip Pullman (winner of the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) spoke out passionately against the budget cuts facing public libraries in the UK. His entire inspiring speech can be read here!

Pullman reads Chekhov

December 13, 2010

The Guardian presents a new podcast series appropriately called Twelve Tales for Christmas. Each day, until Christmas, a writer reads and discusses his/her favorite short story. Featured writers include Julian Barnes (reads Hemingway), Helen Dunmore (reads O’Connor) and Jeanette Winterson (reads Calvino). Opening the series is the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Philip Pullman, who reads Anton Chekhov’s story The Beauties.

About the story, Philip Pullman says: Chekhov’s genius lies in the way he manages to convey with such apparent effortlessness a profound sense of the mystery of beauty, and of the sadness of those who observe and think. The narrator of this apparently inconsequential tale fixes on exactly the right details, from a myriad of possible ones, to strike at the heart. It’s a masterpiece of minimalism.

Find the podcast series here and enjoy a new story every day until christmas!