Grimm, 200 years on

Today marks the 200th year that Grimm’s fairy tales have been in publication. Thanks to Disney, princesses, princes and happily ever afters are now the hallmarks of fairy tales. But Grimm’s tales are so much more. Looking through the collection, I can’t help but interpret the stories as a nineteenth century version of The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits tv series; short stories with twists, morals, and all sorts of weird and fantastic phenomena.

Coming across this terrible upcoming screen adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the blatant Hollywoodisation of these classic tales. This spin on Hansel and Gretel is right up there with the recent travesty that involved the participation of a certain actress from the Twilight franchise. I’m also ambivalent about the recent TV series Grimm, which combines the genre of police procedural drama with the fantastic elements inspired by Grimm’s tales. Wonder if it is any good…..

But sometimes, Hollywood does get it right. Exhibit A:

How do you like them apples?” Sigourney Weaver in Snow White: A Tale Of Terror (1997), dir Michael Cohn.

The title of this adaptation tells it all; it is an adaptation that seeks to go back to the essence of terror that characterises Grimm’s tales. Of course, my favourite has to be the story of The Youth Who Set Out To Learn What Fear Was; the brothers’ anti-Gothic tale.


The eponymous  boy of Grimm’s tale  is unfazed by spirits, demonic animals, the undead and monstrous fiends.

I think it is time to Occupy Grimm! Bring back the terror of Grimm’s tales! How about:

The Singing Bone (brother killing brother)

The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs (protagonist goes into Hell a la Dante’s Inferno)

The Girl Without Hands (milder variation of Shakespeare’s Lavinia…..)

Godfather Death (meeting Death)

The Two Brothers (lots of people cutting other people’s heads off)

The Stolen Farthings (ghost story)

It would be interesting to look at these stories and their place within the Gothic tradition. As Heidi Strengell observes in her monograph on Stephen King:

The Gothic atmosphere prevails in the majority of classic fairy tales (2006, p.111)

Published during the earlier half of the nineteenth century, Grimm’s tales are well poised to have exerted an influence on Victorian, as well as late nineteenth century fin-de-siecle Gothic narratives.

Now isn’t this more interesting than Disney!


3 Responses to “Grimm, 200 years on”

  1. December 21, 2012 at 2:21 am

    Oooh really interesting post ! http://sophiebowns.wordpress.com/ I actually thought Grimm’s fairy tales were older than that! They’re really dark and gothic though aren’t they. Hardly suitable for children. No wonder Disney “softened them” x

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'horror': Middle English: via Old French from Latin horror, from horrere ‘tremble, shudder’.

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