“Are you sitting comfortably?
Well then I’ll begin.”
I’ve been reading Grimms’ Fairy Tales (I assume in what is a somewhat faithful translation – the joys of free e-books on my Kobo app on my Playbook) and seriously those guys were pretty warped and, in many cases, just plain random.
What I found fascinating is how some of the classics (Snow White for eg) was originally called Snowdrop and Cinderella was, of course, Ashputtel (and I say of course, because Cinderella is the English adaptation). It’s also interesting how a lot of the details of the stories changed over time, especially in Cinderella. There was no stroke of midnight (just that the hour was late), there were no mice or pumpkins, and there was a 3-day feast, not a ball.
Instead, Ashputtel gets help from a bird and a tree, and the tree’s leaves shake down onto her and turn into dresses – each more beautiful than the one before over the three nights. There are also some more gruesome details – Stepsister 1 cuts off her big toe to fit into the golden (not glass) slipper (at her mother’s behest) and Stepsister 2 has her foot rammed into the shoe so hard that her heel bleeds her stockings red (again this was done by the mother – the Grimms clearly had mother issues, because man there some eeeevil moms in their stories. According to Wikipedia, the moms were turned into stepmoms later, part of the sanitising process – see below).
Other stories include cannibalism, murder, thievery, stupidity, greed, loyalty, pride, conception, even sex (gasp!). It’s interesting how the fairytales we are now so familiar with skip a lot of these morals and messages and instead opt to focus on beauty, extreme punishment for evil (not as prevalent in the originals, apparently) and ‘happily ever after’….
There’s some interesting information (courtesy of National Geographic) that explains how some of this happened over time and the Wikipedia article also explains some of these changes. Interestingly, the original title was actually Children’s and Household Tales; apparently this is why many of the stories were adapted – they were not seen as suitable for children. I would argue that children are a lot more okay with, and interested in, the macabre and it’s adults who have more of a problem with our base natures as human beings.
I must say, I think I prefer the warped world of the Brothers Grimm, quite frankly, to the sanitized dancing cutlery of Disney. In particular, there is a beautiful, short story in the collection that has a none-too-subtle message about “doing unto others,” called The Grandfather’s Corner or The Old Grandfather and His Grandson. Well worth a read. And some careful thought.