Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome by Stephen JonesTwo hundred years ago two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, collected together a large selection of folk and fairy tales and published them as Kinder- und Hausmarchen (Childrens and Household Tales). So successful was the first collection of 88 stories that they kept adding more to subsequent editions. Since then, the tales of the Brothers Grimm have been translated into upwards of a hundred different languages and are known and loved throughout the world. Now award-winning editor Stephen Jones has tasked some of the brightest and best horror writers in Britain, America and Europe with reinterpreting some of the traditional Hausmarchen, putting a decidedly darker spin on the classic stories.
10 Dark Fairy Tale Origins
The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairy Tales
Jamie Frater , Updated August 18, Fairy tales of the past were often full of macabre and gruesome twists and endings. These days, companies like Disney have sanitized them for a modern audience that is clearly deemed unable to cope, and so we see happy endings everywhere. This list looks at some of the common endings we are familiar with — and explains the original gruesome origins. In the tale of the Pied Piper, we have a village overrun with rats. A man arrives dressed in clothes of pied a patchwork of colors and offers to rid the town of the vermin. The villagers agree to pay a vast sum of money if the piper can do it — and he does.
Luckily, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version , edited by fabulist extraordinaire Philip Pullman and on shelves today, is packed with them, complete with smart commentary and playful prose. While reading, we were struck by how many of our most pervasive stories can be found in the Grimm tales, or even earlier, and also by how much some of the stories have changed along the way — all the blindings and sexual misconduct and death have been mostly scrubbed away. Then again, none of the stories with people getting nailed into barrels and thrown down hills or into ponds have really made it into the mainstream. In one of the very earliest versions of this classic story, published in by Giambattista Basile as Sun, Moon, and Talia , the princess does not prick her finger on a spindle, but rather gets a sliver of flax stuck under her fingernail. She falls down, apparently dead, but her father cannot face the idea of losing her, so he lays her body on a bed in one of his estates.
These stories allow us to explore the furthest reaches of our imaginations — but some have more sinister back stories. Considered the ultimate tale of how love conquers all, this traditional fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont is an enduring classic that has spawned operas, films and ballads. This archetypal story of unjust oppression has been re-interpreted in various films and literature, and has even been used in psychological terminology. When the prince was seeking his elusive love he was, according to the Brothers Grimm , almost tricked by the two stepsisters, both of whom cut off parts of their foot in order to fit into the slipper; it was only through the heavenly doves that the Prince realised that the sisters were bleeding from their self-inflicted amputations. Other versions of the story even claim that, instead of a kiss or a throw , the frog spent one night sleeping peacefully on the pillow of the princess, with her very reluctant agreement, and this, apparently, was sufficient to break the spell of his frog-like form.
Beauty and the Beast
Hollywood has always taken a keen interest in revitalising fairy tales. The likes of Sleeping Beauty Maleficent , Snow White Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack and the Beanstalk Jack the Giant Slayer have all had a recent makeover on the big screen and, although the idea of these cinematic adaptations changing classic stories for new audiences may seem like just another cynical Hollywood cash grab, this approach is really nothing new. The Brothers Grimm are widely credited with bringing many of the most recognisable Germanic folk and fairy tales to wider attention in the early 19th century. Before these tales were collected, revised and printed by the Brothers, they survived for generations as part of oral tradition and would be changed or altered depending on their audience or to bring them in line with the sensibilities of the time. The stories managed to persist for so long as oral tales because they acted as cultural and national artefacts and they held additional value by instilling cautionary advice into children. As well as the Brothers Grimm revisions, some of the early versions of other fairy tales have sexual and violent content which is truly shocking, and will definitely surprise those who are only used to the modern, sanitized retellings of the stories.
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