A new English translation of the original volume of fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm was just published… and it’s nothing like the wonderful world of Disney.
The first edition of Grimm’s “Children’s and Household Tales” was published in 1812. The brothers collected tales from a variety of sources, including stories by French writer Charles Perrault, folk tales told by Wilhem Grimm’s wife Dortchen and her family, and a variety of tales collected from friends, acquaintances and German peasants the brothers met during their travels.
The 1812 edition features the type of grim, nightmarish stories that Old Nan would tell Bran in “Games of Thrones,” including such child-friendly fare as “How the Children Played at Slaughtering” (in which baby brother plays the pig) and “The Children of Famine.” The brothers began to clean up the stories in subsequent editions, and there has has never been an English translation of the original edition. Until now, thanks to scholar and German professor of German literature Jack Zipes.
Zipes told the Guardian,
“Though the Grimms kept about 100 of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal. So, the versions with which most English-speaking (and German-speaking) readers are familiar are quite different from the tales in the first edition.”
Aside from all the added blood and gore, the new translation reveals some other interesting differences between the tales we thought we knew and loved and their originals. First of all, that whole “wicked stepmother” thing? That was not in the original stories; it was added into later editions by the brothers. The original evil queen was Snow White’s biological mother. Zipe told the Guardian he believes they made the change both because they “put motherhood on a pedestal” and because they were
“reflecting sociologically a condition that existed during their lifetime – jealousy between a young stepmother and stepdaughter”, because “many women died from childbirth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there were numerous instances in which the father remarried a young woman, perhaps close in age to the father’s eldest daughter”.
Zipe wholeheartedly recommends reading the original stories to children, by the way. Use your own judgement here – I never thought I’d say this, but I think we might stick with Disney for a while!