Monday, September 26, 2011

Like They Used to...The Brothers Grimm

For they had ready red-hot iron shoes, in which she had to dance until she fell down dead.

Amputated toes, pecked out eyes, entrails on the floor, and torture that even Dick Cheney would have disapproved of.  If you think that all fairy tales were intended to be pleasant then you must have skipped over these ones.  The brother's Grimm were a twisted pair and it is no wonder that their ingenous tales have been dumbed down through the centuries into the Disney fair that they are now.  Don't get me wrong, I still love Disney movies but you have to read the originals to truly appreciate what those two German brothers did.

Let's not argue over who had the first Cinderella story.  Egypt, China, Greece, France, all claim to have told the original version 2000 to 3000 years ago.  What it really comes down to is that by the early 1800s Cinderella and many other fables had spread to Germany where they were collected by the Grimm's brothers and turned into a series of short stories.  Most were meant to impart morals or warnings for not being good.

One interesting thing of about the Grimm's tales is that even when they were published they were seen as being too gritty and raw for children, which is who they were marketed to back then.  In fact before they were released the second time the brothers were told to go back through their stories and change all of the evil mothers into evil step-mothers to somewhat lesson the shock of how they treated their daughters.  That is why there is no one like them around now.  I'd love to see someone create this gore and have the gall to market it to children!

Not all 210 fables are worth reading, some are repetitive and others don't seem to make much sense.  However if you have a stout stomach and perhaps a bit of a macabre sense of humor I fully suggest finding a copy of the Grimms Fairy Tales that hasn't been 'translated' into something for little kids.  How to tell?  Look up the last few lines of Snow White and search for some version of the phrase at the top of the blog.  If instead you see 'happily ever after' then you know you have the wrong book!

Next Time: The German-Irishman who has stolen my heart...


  1. I'm now searching for an original brothers Grimm. Hopefully I don't have to learn German to read them. That sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing a part of literature I never knew existed.

  2. I think I heard that the Brothers were also linguists. What interesting tidbits can Lindsay share about that?

  3. Randy-Happy to hear! I hope that you enjoy them. I think you'll be shocked at some of the differences. I had a great website for all of them, I'll see if I can find it again for you.

  4. Steve-I'm afraid that when I tried to pursue a minor in Linguistics I found out that I couldn't pass the math and I quit. Instead I know the history a bit better.

    At that point in time 'Germany' was not a unified political region. It was over 30 mini-states where the only unifying principle was that they all spoke some form of the German language. Linguists, like Jacob Grimm, felt that if the Germanic language was better defined and regional discrepancies were removed it would unify the people as well. Collecting common fables throughout the area was for a similar purpose. I've heard that there is a Grimm's Law named after Jacob Grimm but I don't know much about it.

    Hope that helps and wasn't too dry!

  5. I studied German when I was at the University of Montana. It seems like the "f's" in German became "s's" when they crossed the English channel.