Monday, December 17, 2007

Grim Grimms

The fact that the second volume of "Ludwig Revolution" is out (finally!) has once more made me realize how grim the traditional fairy tales are.

The Grimm brothers (well, the oldest two of four, actually) were not gathering the fairy tales and legends for children. At that time, a lot of adults were interested in traditional German folklore and read such stories. Gathering the fairy tales wasn't as strenuous as it's often pictured these days, either. Mostly the brothers - who were working as librarians - got the stories by letter. Friends and acquaintances would gather the stories in their local area and write them down, then they would sent a copy of those stories to the brothers who, in turn, would put it in their collection. Later on their younger brother Ludwig (after whom, as I learned from the epilogue of volume two, the prince in the manga is named) would draw some pictures to go with the text.

Today a certain number of those tales - like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood or Sleeping Beauty - are very well known, although rarely in their original form. To make them more suitable for children, quite a lot of the gruesome details (like the end of the evil stepmother in Snow White who is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she dies) were simply cut out. As were some other details (like Rapunzel being pregnant...). The 'true' fairy tales of the Grimm Brothers actually go quite well with the movie "Brothers Grimm" which came out a couple of years ago. (I actually like it.)

  • Snow White is almost killed various times: by the hunter first, then by her own stepmother.
  • Sleeping Beauty herself is cursed to die on her 16th birthday, only the involvement of the last good fairy prevents that, turning death into a deep sleep. The princes trying to get through the thorn bushes fare less well: they die slowly in there.
  • Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are eaten alive and, today a definite no-go, the wolf is cut open while still alive, too.

The list goes on and on and on, believe me - I was lucky as an older child and could read the very good reprints of the original stories. But during the time the fairy tales were told this way, the idea of strict punishment for the sins the evil characters had committed was quite normal.

Even when watching the sweet and children-friendly Disney version of various fairy tales, one should never forget that they are old stories and all old stories are - as Terry Pratchett once wrote - sooner or later about blood.

No comments: