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Grimms' legends at last in English; The German Legends of the Brothers Grimm, edited and translated by Donald Ward. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues. Two vols. $42

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I doubt that 1981 will produce a more delightful book than this clearly authoritative edition of the folk tales ("Deutsehe Sagen," 1816) gathered by the Grimm Brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm. Though they considered it "complementary" to their universally beloved collection of fairy tales (1812), this work has never before been translated into English.

There are 585 stories here, ranging from brief anecdotal paragraphs to fully developed narratives several pages long. Vol. 1 contains legends associated with particular locales (mountains and lakes, most frequently); Vol. 2 is devoted to "historical" legends describing the conquests and culture-building of various Germanic peoples and celebrating the exploits of favorite heroes and kings.

Editor Donald Ward reprints the Grimm brothers' introduction to each volume. His own foreword sheds light on their methods of gathering materials (from earlier printed sources, or through oral transmission) and combining them (often two or more are rewoven into a single narrative), and describes his own editorial principles and "classification scheme." There follow the legends themselves; information on the origin of each (Sources and Addenda); meticulous analyses of meanings and associations (Commentary); a superb index; and a helpful Table of Legends. Ward also contributes an Epilogue replete with interesting remarks on the Grimms' career and the history of folklore scholarship. In short, this book's formal credentials are impeccable.

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