In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a collection of German fairy tales. A second volume was published in 1815. After various revisions, a total of 211 stories were collected.
My English hardcover contains 55 of these stories, taken from both volumes. Many of the stories are very familiar: The Frog Prince, Rumpelstiltskin Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs to name a few.
The violence in these stories is shocking. The brothers received criticism for it even in their day. In 1825 they printed a Children’s Edition which included some of the safer stories. Walt Disney has rendered even the safer stories innocuous.
Take the original Cinderella, for example. When the prince came to find the sister who fit the golden slipper, the eldest tried first:
Her great toe prevented her from getting it on. Her foot was too long.
Then her mother handed her a knife and said, “Cut off the toe. When you are Queen you won’t have to walk any more.”
The girl cut off her toe, forced her foot into the slipper, stifled her pain, and went out to the Prince. …
Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was streaming from it. So he turned his horse round and carried the false bride back to her home, and said that she was not the right one. (162-3)
She was the lucky one! The second sister had to pare down her heel. In the end, Cinderella was married to the prince. As they walked into the church, a dove plucked one eye from each of the false brides. On their way out of the church the dove picked the other eyes. “And so for their wickedness and falseness they were punished with blindness for the rest of their days” (165).
I suppose that’s one way to get children to behave!
These stories are part of our culture. They have staying power that is rarely seen. Enjoy them—just watch out for vindictive doves.
—The Brothers Grimm, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, trans. Mrs. E. V. Lucas, Lucy Crane and Marian Edwards (New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1945) .