Dear Mili

by Wilhelm Grimm

Other authorsMaurice Sendak (Illustrator), Ralph Manheim (Translator)
Hardcover, 1988



Local notes

398.2 Gri




Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (1988), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 40 pages


In order to save her daughter from a terrible war, the mother sends her into the forest telling her to return in three days. She meets St. Joseph who cares for her for three days, which in reality is thirty years.



Original publication date


Physical description

40 p.; 10 x 0.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Mary_Overton
DEAR MILLI is a fairy tale that explores the heartbreaking vulnerability of women and children in war-time.

It also can be seen as the story of a developing soul:

beginning as a small child, terrified by the tumult of physical life, the soul retreats into the woods of the unconscious;

meeting the
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"wise old man" and father figure (& I LOVE that in this context it is St. Joseph -- Jesus' foster father);

learning to nourish oneself;

meeting one's angel;

returning to the physical life even though it is a cruelly demanding task;

reuniting with the body -- each recognizing the other and finding joy in each other.

On the particular level, I have a pioneer ancestor who went to Oklahoma, lost her husband & 4 of her 6 children to typhus, returned home to Missouri with her surviving children, then had to endure the Civil War, which was brutal to civilians in that border state. Fairy tales acknowledge how brutal life can be.
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LibraryThing member coresonk
This is a haunting fairytale. I truly love Sendak's illustrations, they fit so well with the fantastical and dark nature of the story. I think that this would be a great book to use when teaching kids about fairytales, and helping them to leanr that not all fairy tales are as Disney made them. Most
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started out as sad, dark, cautionary tales.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
There is something about the forest which speaks to the human spirit. Whether threatening and full of unseen danger, as in Little Red Riding Hood, or the stronghold of liberty, and safe-haven to which rebellious heroes such as Robin Hood and his band of outlaws withdraw, it looms large in our
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collective imagination. So too does war - that unwelcome specter which has dogged humanity for so much of its existence...

It seems almost inevitable then, that any story which addresses itself to the human fascination with, and fear of, both war and the forest, should speak to us most powerfully. Such is certainly the case with Dear Mili, a short tale from Wilhelm Grimm, of the Brothers Grimm. Originally part of a letter written by the author to a young girl in 1816, it lay forgotten for more than 150 years, until finally coming to light in the early 1980s. This beautiful picture book, with illustrations by the brilliant Maurice Sendak, marks its debut in print.

When an unseen, unnamed war draws near, a mother wonders how to protect her beloved daughter from those "wicked men," and eventually decides to take her to the forest, hoping that there she will be safe. Slipping a piece of Sunday cake into her pocket, assuring her that God will direct her steps, she kisses her daughter, and lets her go... And so begins, from the daughter's perspective, a three-day odyssey, in which she finds shelter in the woods with kindly St. Joseph. But has it only been three days...?

Deceptively simple, Dear Mili touches upon many important themes, from the traumatic familial separation so often caused by war, to the role of faith in difficult times. It speaks to the reality that it is often children, society's most vulnerable members, who are the first victims of violence. As some other reviewers have noted, Sendak's art seems to reference the Holocaust, something that seems eminently appropriate, given the timeless quality of Grimm's tale. Because the time and place are never specified, because the conflict is never named, it could be any time and place, any conflict...

I had been aware of this book's existence for some time, but never seemed to get around to reading it. How glad I am that my friend Chandra prompted me to finally pick it up. I was deeply moved.
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LibraryThing member relientkatie
To protect her from the war that's ravaging their country, a mother sends her daughter off into the woods, where she will be watched by a guardian angel. The little girl finds an old man living in the forest, and she cares for over the course of three days before returning to her mother.
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Mili" was written by Wilhelm Grimm in 1816 for a young friend, and my favorite part of the book wasn't even the story itself but the opening of Grimm's letter to the girl. His explanation of how one heart goes out to another was like poetry.
I enjoyed reading this book, and Maurice Sendak's illustrations are genius, as usual. However, it may not be a good choice for all children. The ending was a little jarring and might upset a sensitive child, so it's important for parents to know what their kids can handle before sharing it with them.
The target audience for this book is from about kindergarten to third grade, but I felt that the story was rich enough to appeal to children through sixth or seventh grade, at least.
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LibraryThing member mahallett
drawings good. story peculiar.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
As war approaches, Mili's mother grows increasingly concerned about protecting her only, precious child. Sending her into the forest to survive, there is a belief that a guardian angel will look after Milli and keep her safe.

While it seems to Mili that she is only gone three days, in fact it is 30
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In the forest she is welcomed by an elderly man, St. Joseph, who shelters her and upon departing to leave for home, he presents her a rose and tells her he will see her again.

When she returns, her mother is now aged.

There are many themes presented in this book that are handled so very masterfully in the hands of a skilled writer such as Sendak. War, separation, aging, death and grief are but a few of the lessons learned in reading this tale.

Like life, there are instances when there is no happy ending.

When asked if his themes were too scary and adult like for children, Sendak replied "Parents shouldn’t assume children are made out of sugar candy and will break and collapse instantly. Kids don’t. We do." (TIME, Dec 5, 1988 v30 n23 p74(1).
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LibraryThing member jsburbidge
As the apparatus notes, this is not a fairy-tale, but an example of the moralising religious stories which were one product of German Protestantism: not that it's any worse for that, but it's useful to slot it into the proper category.

This particular edition needs to be read at two levels. Grimm's
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story is implicitly set during the 30 Years' War (or just possibly the Napoleonic Wars) and has a fairly direct message regarding God's providence in protecting the innocent via angelic and saintly interventions. Its ending makes more sense if seen in the light of Lutheran pietism (which tended to produce works like some Telemann cantatas I have heard where the singer bewails how hard life is and how all they want to do is die so that they can be with Jesus) and the rather older "those whom the gods love die young". Sendak's illustrations, though, with their evocation of the concentration camps of a more recent war, cast a shade over this and implicitly raise questions of theodicy (why this child, and not others, are spared).

I tend to think of this as being paired with Sendak's Outside Over There (partly because they share a similar illustrative style) with their common theses of lost children and absent / substitute parents.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
This book contains a long unknown work by fabulist Wilhelm Grimm (of "Grimm brothers" fame) written in a letter to a little girl. When it was rediscovered in the 1980s, it was published with illustrations by beloved children's author Maurice Sendak.

Dear Mili is the story of a young girl (no name is
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ever given for her) who is told by her mother (also unnamed) to go hide in the woods for three days when a war breaks out near them. She is guided by a guardian angel to a woodland cottage inhabited by Saint Joseph who feeds and cares for her the three days. However, when she returns home to her mother, she discovers that actually 30 years have passed by while she was in the woods. Her mother, now an old woman, dies that night ... as does the little girl.

I've mentioned plenty of times before how I'm not really a fan of fairy tales. This one is no exception. If there was supposed to be a moral, I have no idea what it could possibly be. The shallow characterizations (including the lack of names) doesn't help. There's also a fair amount of religious overtones, which is not my cup of tea.

However, Sendak's illustrations really are quite beautiful. They are rich and detailed; one can only image how much time must have been spent on each one. Still, that's not enough to make up for a story that's lackluster.
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LibraryThing member books-n-pickles
Didn't feel like a traditional fairy tale, what with the saints involved. The standout here is really Sendak's illustrations. Probably not one you'd read to a child--this book is almost certainly made for adult fans of the Grimms and Sendak.

(Rated for my personal interest, not the quality of the
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book or story.)
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LibraryThing member bunnyjadwiga
Writing this review to remind me this is not the Maurice Sendak book I thought it was!* 10 out of ten for the Maurice Sendak illustrations, of course. But this folktale about a little girl whose mother sends her away into the woods when the town was under attack is not kids' stuff. God and the
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little girl's guardian angel and in fact St. Joseph, in a magical hut in the forest, do take care of her -- but after three days the girl returns to her mother, only to find the good lady aged by thirty years. The next day, it is found that both of them have returned to St. Joseph by dying. Very religious, beautiful illustrations, but a 'happy ending' that is sad.
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½ (74 ratings; 4)
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