Podcast #35: Neil Gaiman on Fairy Tales Revisited

By Tracy O'Neill, Social Media Curator
November 6, 2014

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The New York Public Library Podcast brings you the best of the Library's author talks, live events, and other bookish curiosities. In our most recent episode, Neil Gaiman discusses his new interpretation of Hansel and Gretel.  Gaiman, the beloved bestselling author of CoralineAmerican Gods, and The Graveyard Book, joined us for a special Halloween Live at NYPL event. He spoke about librarians, why he learned to read, and his first brush with "Hansel and Gretel."

Like many writers, Gaiman began reading at a young age. He explains that this was because it was too difficult to demand storytime of adults:

"Adults were not obedient. You could not rely on them. There was never an adult when you wanted one. And you'd say, 'Read to me,' and they would say no. And you'd go, 'Right. I have to fix this.' So I was an incredibly early reader, just because I wanted those stories. "

Even so, it took Gaiman some time to warm up to librarians. Here's how describes the evolution of his understanding of librarians:

"I was terrified of them initially because librarians for me, my first experience of librarians, was they were those people who wanted their books back. I eventually gave almost all of them back... And then I discovered the power of A) they would answer questions and B) they understood this strange and abstract concept of the interlibrary loan."

Gaiman's latest book is his version of Hansel and Gretel, and his first brush with the classic fairy tale is a story in and of itself:

"'Hansel and Gretel' I think is probably the only one of Grimm's stories - maybe the Juniper Tree, but maybe even that I'd want to go back and fill that story in - the only one of the Grimm's stories I could ever imagine just wanting to retell straight, and wanting to retell straight partly because I remember being four years old, sitting in the garden at my grandmother's house in Portsmouth in South Sea, listening to the radio, and they put on a 'Hansel and Gretel' for kids with music... And I'm sitting there listening to this story and I'm like, 'Okay, so parents can lose their children, in the woods, on purpose.' I didn't know that. And then you listen to more, and I'm going, 'Okay, nice old lady. House. Good. Good—oh shit.' And then that awful moment of suddenly going, 'She wants to eat him!' And I'm looking down at myself at age four, going, 'I'm meat.' I had not figured this out: 'I'm edible.'"

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