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The Original First Edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales is Fucking Gruesome!!

I had a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a child, probably a 7th edition or something, but I remember how stark the difference was between Grimm’s version of stories like The Little Mermaid and the cheesy Disney versions. The Grimm stories were enrapturing but also disturbing, and told of a different moral code than the one Disney alluded to. Like, how dumb was the mermaid to suffer a feeling of walking on broken glass just to get the attention of the prince, when it all just ended in death anyway? But of course, the Disney version erased all of that violence or attributed it to the “right” people – the ugly, the foreigners and the witches. Now the original First Edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales has been translated into English for the first time, and I’m realizing that even those gruesome stories I read as a child were watered down and sanitized. Princeton University Press has now released The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition edited by Jack Zipes and with beautiful illustrations by Andrea Dezsö, and holy fuck does it sound horrific. It makes Grand Theft Auto sound like Mario Kart. Zipes had an interview with CBC over the weekend and told a few of the original tales, check them out below…and imagine reading these to your young kids before tucking them into bed…sweet nightmares, kiddies!

Text via CBC.ca

How Some Children Played at Slaughtering

“Once there was a father who was slaughtering a pig in the yard…His two sons saw him do this, and they decided to play slaughtering. One of the brothers became the pig, and the other became the slaughterer and he slit the throat of the younger brother. In the meantime, the mother was watching upstairs from a window and saw what had happened. She ran downstairs and took the knife out of the boys throat and, out of fury, she stabbed the older boy in the heart. And then she realized the baby was upstairs, and in the meantime the baby had died and drowned in the tub. She was so remorseful she committed suicide. The father, he was so dismayed that after two years he wasted away.”

 

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The Children of Famine

“A widow is starving with her two children…And because she can’t find any food, she thinks she might have to eat them. The two children, two girls, do their best not to get eaten by their own mother.” The story ends abruptly and cryptically, with the children promising to lie down and sleep “until judgement day” and the mother departing to “nobody knows where.”

 

Why Wicked Mothers Became Wicked Stepmothers

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Some of villainous characters who became wicked stepmothers in later versions were biological mothers in the first edition of the Grimm tales. Snow White’s own mother wanted to murder her daughter in the original tale.
  “She was only seven-years-old…The mirror declares a seven-year-old more beautiful than this obviously beautiful queen, and the mother is so enraged that she wants her daughter murdered. In Hansel and Gretel, it’s also not a stepmother. It’s a biological mother who wants to abandon her daughter in the woods where they will probably be eaten by beasts. So there are these shifts that the Grimms made, either because they thought this was a detriment to mothers…or because they were mirroring conditions that were fairly typical in the 19th Century. Many women died during childbirth and the fathers would marry a very young woman who might be close in age to the eldest daughter and of course there would be a rivalry of some kind.”

  The Original Ending of Cinderella

One bloody detail of the Brothers Grimm tales that survived well after the first edition is the ending of Cinderella, when the wicked stepsisters try on the glass slipper. “We have a biological mother who hates the stepdaughter, Cinderella…She wants her two daughters to profit so she advises them to either cut off their toe or cut off their heel so their feet will fit into the slipper. That doesn’t happen because the blood oozes out of the slipper and a bird, a dove usually, says, ‘Looky look look, there’s blood on the foot.’ The Prince goes back and finally marries Cinderella. Then on their way to the wedding, the stepsisters are invited and they are riding in a carriage that is following Cinderella and the Prince and the doves come back and peck their eyes out.”

All images by Andrea Dezsö

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Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jonny Streety

    November 25, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Ive read them. Great stuff.

  2. Tobæus Tapetrve

    November 25, 2014 at 5:19 am

    As a German, I’ve grown up with the largely unedited versions. Many of those have extremely sadistic means of punishment for the villains, such as being tossed about in a barrel that is studded with spikes inside. But only few end well for their protagonists, either.

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