If you are yet to hear about the Grimm brother’s, I’m afraid you’ve missed out on a formative experience during your childhood. Jacob and Wilhem Grimm are the great minds behind a majority of the tales that your childhood should have consisted of. Their multitudes of tales include the likes of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel, many of which have been made into films (more than once, thank Disney for its originality).
Born in Hanau, Germany, the two brothers were the eldest in their large family, the first two of seven. The boys were rather intelligent, graduating as Valedictorian of Friedrichsgymnasium. Their interest in academia led to their enrollment at the University of Marburg, in order to study German literature. However, it wasn’t until the two siblings began work as librarians in Kassel, Germany, that they were able to truly work on their original literature.
The first of the brothers’ works was published in 1812, and titled “Kinder-und Hausmarchen”. This title consisted entirely of folk tales, including “The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich” (“The Frog Prince”), “Rumpelstiltskin”, and “Cinderella”. Both brothers wrote in a manner consistent with their name; Grim. The two really despised the stepsisters in “Cinderella” which resulted in a rather gruesome end to the tale. During Cinderella’s wedding, the two stepsisters’ eyes are pecked by Cinderella’s bird friends, as the cruel sisters are “punished with blindness as long as they live”.
Other tales written by the two (that Disney chose to avoid, for good reason), include “Frau Trude” and “The Juniper Tree”. “Frau Trude” follows the story of a rude, disobedient child who takes it upon herself to visit Frau Trude, a desire her parents vehemently try to dissuade her from. The child visits Frau Trude, yet upon glancing into a mirror, discovers that she is, in reality, the Devil in disguise. Realizing what the child knows, Frau Trude transforms her into piece of wood, and places the child in the fire.
“The Juniper Tree” is a story about a stepmother who hates her stepson (typical of the Grimm brothers). Essentially, the stepmother partially beheads her stepson, and tricks her daughter into completing the deed. Strangely enough, the beginning of the story is reminiscent of “Snow White”, as the mother of the stepson wishes for, “a child as red as blood, and as white as snow”.
While some may shy away from the original versions of the fairy tales, based on the violence and brutality that plays a theme in multiple of them, Jack Zipes, the author of the only English translation of the Grimm brothers’ first edition of tales, praises the Grimm brothers for their, “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”.
However, living in a society where one must continuously censor themselves, to the point that President Obama cites being, “coddled and protected from different points of views” as an unnecessary action that is unfortunately being perpetuated by many in our present society, makes it understandable that there are such adverse reactions to the Grimm brothers’ tales. Furthermore, the themes prevalent in the original stories provides an insight into the lives of the Grimm brothers itself, that is washed away by the massive edits made by corporations looking to make a dime on their story compilations. As a strong proponent in the original, I highly recommend delving into their compilation of fairy tales, for it provides readers with an entirely different story, from the PG Disney renditions.