I’m working my way slowly through The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and reading the original versions of such stories as Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. There are, however, some six or seven hundred stories contained in this grimoire, the vast majority of which I’ve never even heard of before.
Now, everybody knows that the Disney incarnations of the original fairy tales are all saccharine sweetness with the awful bits censored out for the sake of the kids (nevermind that it’s precisely these dark bits that make them so powerful and worth reading). So it was with some anticipation that I set about reading, loins girded for some ghastliness. But man, I was not prepared for just how dark these stories could be. Those German folk living around the Black Forest were pretty hardcore. What I’m going to do is copy down the most gruesome and shocking parts of the fairy tales as I come across them, and give you guys an idea at to how whitewashed the original fairy tales have become over the years.
Tonight I’ll copy down the entirety of The Willful Child, which is sufficiently short and morbid to be worth the transcription:
Once upon a time there was a child who was willful, and would not do what her mother wished. For this reason God had no pleasure in her, and let her become ill, and no doctor could do her any good, and in short time she lay on her death-bed. When she had been lowered into her grave, and the earth was spread over her, all at once her arm came out again, and stretched upwards, and when they had put it in and spread fresh earth over it, it was all to no purpose, for the arm always came out again. Then the mother herself was obliged to go to the grave, and strike the arm with a rod, and when she had done that, it was drawn in, and then at last the child had rest beneath the ground.
First impressions: go. I bet your thoughts are similar to mine, in that they revolve around the general reaction of what the hell? A child is willful, so God kills her? She’s then buried, and in true zombie fashion her arm claws its way free of the earth, and will only succumb when her mother beats at the offending limb with a rod. Those German’s were clearly dealing with the Old Testament God. And one thing I learned from my bible is that you don’t mess with that guy.
So what moral were the German boys and girls meant to gather from this tale? Obey your mother or God will kill you. And if you try to get snarky by playing at zombie? Your mother will successfully beat your dead limb into submission with a rod. Yikes.