Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

The Grimmest Tales Are Best Read Aloud

As I mentioned last week, I was first introduced to Grimm Fairy Tales as a child. We would bring a library copy along on family camping trips and read them aloud while roasting marshmallows around the fire. Those tales were scarier than my typical fare at that age, and the darkness surrounding our ring of firelight would make the atmosphere set by the stories even creepier. 🙂 I think that was when the magic of these stories sank deep into my blood. I have been collecting them, reading them and soaking up every movie based on them ever since.

Walter Crane's Snow White

Walter Crane’s Snow White

Originally called Children’s and Household Tales, this German collection of fairy tales was first published in 1812 by Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-11859) Grimm. The first volume contained 86 tales. Within ten years, there were three volumes containing a total of 170 tales. By the seventh edition in 1857, there were 211 tales included.

These volumes met with much criticism for despite their title they were not seen as fit for children.   While the brothers Grimm made some changes the stories to make them more suitable for younger ages, the stories became more violent. For example, the wicked mother in “Snow White” and “Hansel and Gretel” became a stepmother, and they removed sexual references in “Rapunzel.” In 1825, a concession was made and a small edition of 50 selected tales was published for young readers.

Gustave Dore's Red Riding Hood

Gustave Dore’s Red Riding Hood

 When I first heard these tales, I didn’t understand that the Brothers Grimm did not write them. They were academics who collected and published them. They collected many of the stories in the oral form from peasants and middle class people. They also published collections of Danish and Irish folk tales and Norse mythology. Many people see the study of an areas folklore and tales as a means to truly understand the people of a certaintime or region.

While researching for this post, I learned that during the Third Reich, the Grimm Fairy Tales were used to foster nationalism. The Nazi party thought that this was a book every home should have. The book was later banned when Allied forces occupied Germany.

Walter Crane's Rumpelstiltskin

Walter Crane’s Rumpelstiltskin

These stories have continued to influence popular culture. In 1937 Disney’s released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and in 1959, Sleeping Beauty. Movies to this day continue to play out the Cinderella theme – Pretty Woman and Ever After are two of my favorites. Modern television has embraced the fairy tale – both Grimm’s and others’ – in the hit series GrimmOnce Upon a Time and the new release, Galavant.

To this day, some see the tales in their original form as too violent for children. They prefer the sanitized, good-always-wins-over-evil versions that have made Disney films so popular. However, as my post last week discussed, telling the original tales teaches many valuable lessons. For example, there are consequences to every action, and not every old lady you meet on a path is a kind old lady.

Gustave Dore's Cinderella

Gustave Dore’s Cinderella

If you are looking for a great read, pick up The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. If you don’t want to wait, you can find many of them here for free. While available in e-book form, this is one that is worth getting in leather-bound, or at the very least hardcover. 🙂

Then branch out and search out all the stories that grew from the themes in these tales. You will never run out of things to read!

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