The most famous collection of fairy tales, but a long way from being the best. The stories and their messages are weird and unbalanced - not just by the standards of the day - and there are also a couple of antisemitic stories that spoil the whole thing.
When I point something like that out, someone inevitably makes a "it was normal back then" argument, but I've never seen antisemitic stories in any other old folk tale collections and, according to one of the world's top experts, Maria Tatar, no other German collection from the 19th century has any similar stories. Besides that, story books like this are one of the first things to define what normal means for people, and should be held to a very high standard. I'd bet you bottom dollar that most people involved in implementing the Holocaust were introduced to the existence of Jews through this very book. A stain on the genre. A piece of garbage that's best left forgotten.
I read this once as a child and once in my thirties. Both times it was like a punch in the face. But a happy punch in the face. Even knowing the outline of the story, there's a sense of tension and fear hidden in the details that I've never experienced in any other book. The philosophical themes are subtle and unpretentious, and tangle themselves effortlessly into the frighting sense of vastness and emptiness and time. Maybe the best proof there is that a book can be short and sweet and part of a low-brow genre and still blow most fine literature out of the water.
<OBJECT SANDWICH-BAG (LOC KITCHEN-TABLE) (SYNONYM BAG SACK) (ADJECTIVE BROWN ELONGATED SMELLY) (DESC "brown sack") (FLAGS TAKEBIT CONTBIT BURNBIT) (FDESC "On the table is an elongated brown sack, smelling of hot peppers.") (CAPACITY 9) (SIZE 9) >