I have a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that I’ve owned for as long as I can remember, possibly even since birth. It was published in 1973, a year before I was born, and it seems like the type of book my eccentric dad or one of his eccentric friends would have thought was really funny to gift to a baby due to all the cannibalism and cutting off of body parts, etc.
Anyway, I’m fairly certain I read the whole thing as a child, but apparently it didn’t scar me for life because I didn’t remember much except for the fact that they were sort of bloody and brutal. Since I’m currently plotting a fairy tale retelling (The Selfish Giant), I decided to go back and read some other original fairy tales to get more of a flavor of those stories. Thus, I picked up my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Most of us already know that these stories are very different from the Disney versions, but I had forgotten just how different they were, and there were a few things that struck me as amusing (in a sick sort of way—my dad would be proud).
Things I Learned About Fairy Tales by Reading Grimm’s:
Grimm’s Fairy Tales weren’t the originals.
Okay, so I actually learned this while writing this post, not while reading, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I always thought that the Grimm’s versions of these fairy tales were the “originals”—or at least the earliest written versions of the tales in a book. Not true. Apparently the Grimm’s Brothers didn’t write their versions till the late 19th century, a lot later than I realized. Sleeping Beauty, for instance, was written in Mother Goose Tales in the late 17th century (that’s more in line with when I thought Grimm’s were written), and the earliest written version was done by Giambattista Basile, who published a book called The Tale of Tales in 1634.
True love’s kiss never helped anyone.
- In The Frog Prince, the princess never kisses the frog at all. She’s forced to bring him to her bed by her father, who insists that she keep her promise to the frog (who got her golden ball out of the water for her). She’s so disgusted by the idea of having him in her bed, she violently throws him against the wall. And he turns into a prince. And they get married and live happily ever after. Yay? (MORAL: If you’re looking for a prince, instead of kissing him, throw him against a wall and see what happens.)
- In Sleeping Beauty, the princess’s adapted curse was that she would sleep for 100 years. The prince who “rescued” her just happened to get there when the 100 years was up, and the thorny brambles simply moved out of his way so he could get to her. Technically, he did kiss her, but there seems to be no indication that that’s what woke her up. It states pretty clearly that her hundred years were up, and she was going to wake up anyway.
- In Snow White, after she was poisoned, Snow was a really pretty corpse and she wasn’t decomposing or anything, so the dwarves put her in a glass coffin so they could keep looking at her, even after she was dead. When the prince came by, he wanted to be able to stare at her corpse all the time too, so the dwarves agreed to let him take her to his palace. While they were traveling, she got jostled and the piece of poison apple flew out of her mouth and she woke up. So romantic!
Lots of fairy tale characters are cannibals
- We all know about the witch from Hansel and Grethel. Apparently kids were her candy.
- The robber bridegroom didn’t want to marry his true love, he wanted to eat her. And a marriage proposal was apparently the most convenient way to accomplish that.
- After the evil stepmom in The Almond Tree kills her stepson, she apparently decides the best way to hide the evidence is by feeding him to his dad (he was very tasty).
- I’m pretty sure there were more—these are just the ones I remember off-hand.
The good guys usually win. Depending on how you define “good guys.”
- If you live a good life, you will be able to get revenge on those who do you harm by killing them in some strange slow way, like making them dance with hot iron shoes till they die.
- Being nice to talking animals will get you far in life. But apparently it’s fine to sacrifice your non-talking (for some reason?) horse to the talking baby birds by chopping him up and feeding him to them. You will be richly rewarded for your generosity. ‘Cause apparently horses are soulless while baby birds are not?
- If you’re nice to little troll men in the woods, they will help you steal golden stuff from people so that you can eventually marry a princess. So, apparently sharing your food is a high virtue, but not stealing is just like a tiny little rule you should ignore.
Speaking of princesses, if you are one, expect to marry whoever can complete some random task.
- Quests to win a princess are usually quite random.
- If you are a princess, you will most likely have to marry a man you hate because he accomplishes a random task and neither you nor your dad will be able to get out of it.
- But don’t worry because apparently once you get married to that guy you hate, it all turns out great. You always live happily ever after.
And now, indeed, there lacked nothing to their happiness as long as they lived.
Even though the Grimm’s versions of these fairy tales are pretty weird and bleak, I’m hooked. I got a giant book of them from the library (The Annotated Brothers Grimm), since my personal copy only had nineteen of the stories. I also picked up a thick book of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales, and now I want to get Mother Goose and maybe a translation of that 1600’s Italian dude’s book, if I can find it. 🙂
So, here’s wishing that each and every one of you meet your frog prince (or princess), throw him against a wall, and live happily ever after!
Have you read any of the original(ish) fairy tales? What did you learn? I want to know!
This post has been linked up to the 2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge.
Fairy Tale picture Designed by Ddraw
I love this! Very accurate observations. I read all of the Grimm’s Tales a few years ago. They are very different from the Disney versions. The Grimms were also revisionists, so they completely rewrote their tales a few times during their lives and republished updated editions of their books. That’s another reason why there are so many different versions of the same story.
How interesting! I’ve now been reading a lot more history about the Grimm’s Brothers and fairy tales in general, and I’m finding it fascinating (makes me want to go back to school!).
Huh, throw the frog against the wall? I did not know that one! LOL I feel like I’ve read a couple of the Grimm stories, but I’m not sure…I do have a book with some of them though so I need to check it out!
My book had been sitting on my shelf for many years (since childhood, really). I’m so glad I finally decided to pick it up.
Haha, I love your observations! I also love fairy tales and I never get tired of reading the original tales (as close as we can get to them anyway) or commentaries that bring out their meaning. If you haven’t found it already, the SurLaLune site is an excellent source of information: http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/
I hadn’t heard of that site—thanks for pointing it out to me!
Love the frog against the wall !! I really should read the Grimms Tales again. I had him off then when I read younger.
Who knew that being bashed against a wall was so magical?
I don’t think I have read any of the originals, but have heard they are vastly different than the watered down G rated versions we read to our kids. 🙂
That’s an understatement!
In university, I took a Fairy Tales literature course. Before that, I had never read any of the old, original fairy tales. I really only had knowledge of the Disney ones. I absolutely LOVED that class. I was my favourite class I took in university. I really need to read more, as the class only covered a few. I loved seeing the different versions too – some differed greatly and others only slightly, but they would keep the core motifs. It was so fun!
I wish I’d taken that sort of class. I’d love it!
I was gifted a collection a while ago, but I honestly haven’t really read any tales.
Snow White is a whole lot creepier to me now. One of my favorite tales is A Thousand Furs (or something like that).
You should definitely read it!
I still have my copy of the Brothers Grimm from college. I read it for my Fairy Tales and Legends class. I read them in German, which probably made them even scarier.
I would love that class! Well, in English. I wouldn’t do so well if I tried to read the fairy tales in German.
Great post! I haven’t read any of the Grimm’s tales in age and had forgotten how truly different they are from what we get from the likes of Disney. True love’s kiss really was useless, wasn’t it? LOL.
Yep, don’t even bother trying a kiss when in a fairy tale situation.
What a fun post to read! I have a book on the Grimm’s fairy tales that goes into detail about how they developed. I haven’t read it yet though. I keep wanting to do a read of their complete works but every year it tends to get pushed aside. Perhaps if I make it a challenge, I’ll do it.
I’m now reading their annotated complete works and really enjoying it.
Ahhh very much enjoyed this post. A few years ago a picked up the really beautiful copies of Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen from B & N but haven’t read through them yet. I’m excited for my daughter to get a little older so I can introduce her to these non-Disney/dark versions young lol (though we obviously will be watching those too) :D.
Yeah, you’ll want her to be old enough, so she’s not scarred for life by them. 🙂
What a great post. I need to read some Grimm’s because I like dark things. However, I will NOT read the horse in pieces part because ewww, how mean. And I like the idea of throwing princes against the wall. Sounds like a valid plan to me!
Right? The poor horse!
The original Grimm’s Tales are usually pretty creepy, and disturbing on some level. I think I read a Hans Christian Anderson one about a mermaid that actually ended really sad for the mermaid. She didn’t get her prince and had to watch him live happily every after with another woman. Can’t think of what the moral of that story would be. Haha! Poor frog/prince! It wasn’t the frog’s fault that her dad made her bring him to bed, right? I don’t actually know, though. Maybe he was a creepy talking frog?
I’ve heard that Hans Christian Anderson is even worse than Grimm’s—a fact that surprised me!
Grimm’s tales are incredibly grim and totally unsuitable reading for children. I loved them!!
I reread Pinocchio a couple of years back and that is pretty horrific too. I think I was more shocked reading it as an adult than I had been as a child
Oh, funny. I didn’t remember that Pinnochio was so bad. I’ll have to read it again.
This is such an awesome post! I shall now scour the countryside for dudes to heave against a wall. ? Seriously, I love how messed up they always are! I had no idea they were so “new” either, that is a fun fact! And wow, why is everyone a cannibal, yikes?
Also Nicole, you are forgetting the Golden Rule:
GAH that was SUPPOSED to be a GIF of Clarke saying “there are no good guys” but it didn’t work, SAD.
I’ll just imagine it. I have a good imagination, right?
If only you’d known earlier that dating was so easy!
Great post Nicole! Love how you explored the origins of some our our fairytales. I was shocked the first time I read the original version of the Grimm’s tales. They had traveled through the countryside writing down stories pass down. The throwing of the frog is priceless! I guess someone thought having to have the frog in her bed was not bad enough. ❤️❤️
Yes, I’ve since read more about how these stories came about, and it’s super interesting.
I love this! I don’t think that I have read any fairytales. I think that I have been exposed to more of the Disney version of these stories. I love the prince in Snow White just wanted to look at her beautiful corpse.
I was WAY more familiar with the Disney versions, I’ll admit.
Okay, this post made me so happy. Admittedly, I did know a lot of these already but the one about Sleeping Beauty and the prince just happening to be there at the right time? Hilarious. I love that coincidence 😛 I also love that the prince in Snow White was also a fellow creep along with the dwarves and that is what saved her. 😀 I need to read the collection for myself from start to finish now, for soure!!
Yes, these definitely aren’t the tales Disney tells! 🙂
I see someone already pointed you toward http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/
The site is great because she breaks it down by tale type and then explains the history of that tale across various cultures.
“SurLaLune Fairy Tales features 49 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, modern interpretations and over 1,500 illustrations.”
So, like, if you’re super into Beauty and the Beast, you can read the annotated fairy tale from the 1889 Andrew Lang Blue Fairy Book (which, HELLO, check out the Andrew Lang rainbow fairy books if you can find them – AMAZING collections of fairy tales from all over the world), and then there are links that talk about the history and traces back the origin of the tale, and another that talks about similar Beauty & the Beast stories in other cultures (which, BTW, did you know The Frog Prince or The Enchanted Frog is a Beauty & the Beast tale type?)
…Sorry, I’m a bit of a fairy tales nerd…
Yes, I checked out the site and I’m quite impressed! I have started reading the annotated fairy tales book from the library, and I’m really enjoying it. It has a lot of history about the tales and background information that I find fascinating.
Never able to read the original fairy tale versions by the Grimms Brothers. I’ve heard about how dark and different they are from the Disney versions. I’ve read the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales as a wee bit child, I’m excited about what posts you could come up after re-reading them.
I picked up a Hans Christian Anderson book at the library too and definitely plan to read it.
I kind of knew this? But had forgotten most of it? I remember really liking Snow White and Rose Red, and finding Hans Christian Andersen’s stories all too sad. It’s interesting that “folk tale” just meant stories people told each other, and somehow over time we started assuming they were only for KIDS, and then we had to water them down.
Well, to be fair, the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales books were called Children’s and Household Tales, so I found it interesting that the Grimms Brothers were surprised that people were reading them to their children. (The tales were often told to children throughout history, in all their brutality, but then some people were a bit offended by the content so even the Grimms Brothers watered them down a bit!)
The disney ones are so cleaned up haha. I read an ebook of some of the grimm fairy tales and some are just plain creepy.
Creepy is definitely right!
Yes!! I have a Grimm’s fairy tale book that was my Grandma’s when she was a kid. I was so excited to read it when my children were little. I don’t even remember what the first story was but ultimately I didn’t even make it a few pages lol. Talk about dark! I loved your adult take on this, I was smiling and nodding while reading your post.
Oh, wow, that book must be so special to you! I have some classics that were my mom’s when she was a kid, but that’s as far back as I go.
This is so interesting, although I’m sure I had that version of snow white as a kid where the apple is just jostled out of her throat, I always thought it was a bit of a cop out? I think all the dark stuff bothers you less than you’d think aswell, my favourite fairytale was one called ‘the six swan brothers’ which has cannibalism themes if I remember right…
I wouldn’t be surprised if Six Swan Brothers includes cannibalism. Apparently it’s a major fairy tale theme!
This post was fascinating to read! I was most surprised that many of the Grimms fairy tales weren’t the originals. I have a big collection of the Grimms fairy tales on my bookshelf that I started reading a while back, and this post makes me want to pick it up again.
Great post, Nicole!
I hope you do pick them up. I’ve really been enjoying reading these original fairy tales. Sometimes they’re brutal, but they give us a lot of insights into the harsh conditions of life for a lot of people at that time. And sometimes they can be good for a laugh, too! 🙂