grim fairy tales

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, two brothers who lived in Kassel (Germany), collected more than 150 oral stories, and published written versions of them in two volumes – one in 1812 and a second in 1814. The folk tales, though intended for children, are not for the faint-hearted.

On the covers are the most innocent of titles: Grimm’s Fairy Tales in their English version or Children’s and Household Tales [Kinder- und Hausmärchen] in the original German editions published two hundred years ago. Nice tales for nice children.

But behind the safe titles lie dark stories of sex and violence – tales of murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide and incest, as one academic puts it. They are far from anything we might imagine as acceptable today. If they were a video game, there would be calls to ban them. ….

[A]ccording to Maria Tatar, professor of Germanic folklore and mythology at Harvard University: “These tales are not politically correct. They are full of sex and violence. In Snow White, the stepmother asks for the lungs and liver of the little girl. She’s just seven years old and she’s been taken into the woods by the huntsman. That’s pretty scary.

“And then the evil stepmother is made to dance to death in red-hot iron shoes. In Cinderella, you’ve got the stepsisters whose heels and toes are cut off.”

Stephen Evans, “Are Grimm’s Fairy Tales too twisted for children?“, BBC Culture, 1 August 2013.

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