Grim bits in Grimm’s Fairy Tales

I love fairy tales.I love how they manage to evoke the same feeling you had when you first read them as a child.As a matter of fact I spent the past week re-reading (this time as an adult) the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.While I thoroughly enjoyed doing so,there were some rather disturbing facts that didn’t escape me:

We all know that the Queen,upon learning that Snowdrop is the fairest of the kingdom for the first time,ordered a huntsman to kill the child and bring her the ‘lungs and liver’ as tokens.Afterwards,the huntsman takes pity upon Snowdrop and kills a young fawn instead and brings its insides to the Queen.And then,I learned something new(or maybe I was too young to remember): ”The cook was ordered to serve them up in pickle and the wicked Queen ate them thinking that they were Snowdrop’s.” 

In the final part of the story,Rapunzel lowers her hair so that the Prince can climb up the tower and rescue her.Once he got in,however,the Prince is dismayed to see that the Witch trapped him.”The Prince was beside himself with grief,and in his despair he sprang out of the window.He was not killed,but his eyes were scratched out by the thorns among which he fell.” Fortunately he regains his sight ultimately,but still,can you imagine the horror?

This is the Grimms’ version of Perrault’s ‘Cinderella’.At the end of the story,when the Prince is coming to every house in the kingdom to try the golden slipper on every maiden present,Ashenputtel’s two step-sisters will do everything to have their foot fit in the slipper.Here’s what the wicked mother advises her two daughters: ”Cut off the toe;when you are Queen you won’t have to walk any more.”;”Cut a bit off your heel;when you are Queen you won’t have to walk any more.” Even at the end,when Ashenputtel is getting married,the sisters are not spared,as they both have their two eyes plucked out by white doves.

4.The White Snake
This one was pretty funny.A young servant to the King eats a chunk of a white snake.He then obtains the power to understand the language of every animal.As a result he helps every animal that is in distress.One day it so happened that he saw a pair of ravens driving their nestlings out of their nest on account that they were old enough to feed themselves.The nestlings wept and wondered how they would find food when they don’t even know how to fly.Then the servant did something: ”The good youth dismounted,killed his horse with his sword and left the carcase as food for the young ravens.” Good logic.

5.The Seven Ravens
A little girl must free his seven brothers who’ve all been transformed into ravens.To do so,she must open the glass mountain.Now,she had been given the key to open it,but lost it during her voyage.What does she do then? ”The good little sister took a knife and cut off her own tiny finger,fitted it into the keyhole and succeeded in opening the lock.” Sweet.

6.Sweetheart Roland
This is gruesome.In some way,it reminds us of what happens in Perrault’s  ‘Little Thumb’.There is a witch living with two daughters: one was just as wicked and ugly as her mother,the other was beautiful and kindhearted.The witch and her wicked daughter one day decide to get rid of the other daughter.To do so,the wicked child has to sleep on the other side of the bed,but the beautiful daughter heard this and swapped places during the night with her sister.When the witch came,”she seized the axe with both hands,struck – and struck off her own child’s head.” As per Sweetheart Roland’s orders,”the maiden fetched the magic wand,and then took her stepsister’s head and dropped three drops of blood from it” in order to escape from the witch.Very graphic.

7.The Salad
A goodhearted fellow gives alms to a poor woman who then decides to reward him for his deed: ”Hark ye,dear Huntsman will make you a present because of your good heart.Go on your way,and you will come to a tree on which nine birds are sitting.They will have a cloak in their claws,over which they are fighting.Take aim and shoot into the middle of them.They will drop the cloak and one of the birds will fall down dead…..Take the heart out of the dead bird and swallow it whole,then you will find a gold coin under your pillow every single morning.” Can you visualize the man swallowing a bloody heart whole?!

8.The Pink
The Queen gives birth to a little boy who can wish for anything in the world – literally,because he was blessed by an angel.An evil cook then kidnaps him and makes the most of the boy’s power.Not wanting the child to get bored,the cook orders him to wish for a maiden so that she can be his companion.Immediately a beautiful girl appears.Then one day the cook orders the girl to kill the boy,out of fear that the young lad might return to the palace and denounce him,and to bring him his heart and tongue.The girl instead kills a hind,and presents the tongue and liver on a ‘dish’ to the cook.Later,when the boy learns of the cook’s plan,he is red with anger: ”You shall be turned into a black poodle,with a gold chain round your neck,and you shall be made to eat live coals so that flames of fire may come out of your mouth.” In the end,the cook will ‘be torn into four quarters’ as per the orders of the King.Whew.


11 thoughts on “Grim bits in Grimm’s Fairy Tales”

  1. Really enjoyed this read .. I always loved the Grimm (and grim) stories growing up, I also remember the girl with the little red shoes, who had to have her feet chopped off at the end to stop her dancing *winces*

  2. I loved your post! And it made me think of “Little Red Riding Hood” where the guy cuts the sleeping wolf open in order to free Red and her grandmother…who happen to still be alive. Thanks for the nightmares, Grimm! Haha.

    1. Thanks! 🙂
      Yes,there’s also the wolf and the seven goats.At the end,the wolf is cut open and the goats escape.The mother goat then fills the wolf with stones,so that he falls into a lake when stooping to drink.

      Haha,I guess they included such gruesome details to convey the message that the sinner is always condemned to an atrocious end…haha.

  3. I believe that Grimm’s tales have been changed from what was originally written by them. And I think the Grimms took the tales from stories that were already in existence. So I don’t know if others made them more violent than the Grimms versions, or if the Grimms made them more violent from the originals. Of the latter, I tend to think not. I have a book about it and you’ve reminded me that I need to read it. 🙂

    I really don’t think people were as sensitive then as we are now. There are so many things that we find shocking, that perhaps they didn’t blink an eye at. I’m still surprised at how English children (and perhaps all children) treated each other when I read older children’s novels. “Peggy, you donkey!” and “Don’t be such an idiot!” are commom terms among friends without any reaction or offense. After first being shocked, I now kind of like it because I think it shows the deep friendships people had ~~ people can say things like this and know that there’s a bond that can’t be broken. In any case, I digress. 🙂

    I was thinking of doing a fairy tale challenge at some point ~~ perhaps for 2016!

    1. I think the stories are a bit darker and more mature.Take Cinderella for example: in their version there is no fairy godmother,no giant pumpkin turning into a cart or whatsoever.

      And yes,while they did write their fair share of stories,they also adapted those from other authors.Cinderella (Ashenputtel) and Red Riding Hood are two well known stories that appear in both Perrault and Grimms’ collections,although under somehow different forms

      And I don’t think these were meant to be grim,as you say.I just wanted to write a rather funny post about my reading of fairy tales,haha.When a child hears these tales,he normally doesn’t pay attention to the details,but when you come to think about it,some can be very gruesome.But I think the Grimm just wanted to accentuate the fact that a miserable fate/end awaits those who sin.

      And you’re right about us being more sensitive in today’s time.There are many things in the tales which wouldn’t make a children of the past budge.

  4. Wonderful post! I think I’ve read some of these “grimmer” versions, but only at a slightly older age-Although now that I think about it, the first time someone read me Ashenputtel to me, it did have the cutting off of toes and heel. I must have been a weird child to think that was perfectly natural. 😀

    1. Haha,glad you like it! 🙂
      I guess when we were children we didn’t visualize the details as vividly as now – or maybe the versions simply omitted those gruesome facts,haha.

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