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Written by Timothy Sexton
Little Red Cap
You might know this character better by her non-Grimm fairytale name, Little Red Riding Hood. Essentially the same character when co-opted by the Brothers. What was new in their version, however, is the little girl with the red topper being saved by the woodsman.
Various versions of Cinderella had existed before the Grimm brothers got their hands on it, but they were the ones who really gave the poor ash girl her spirit. Before the Grimm version, Cinderella was completely acted upon; even by her fairy godmother. Cinderella’s history in the post-Grimm period is one in which she takes a more proactive role in determining her big night. That all starts here with this Cinderella calling upon the local animals to give a hand in doing the really burdensome load of chores piled upon her.
Brier Rose by any other name is more famous to most people as Sleeping Beauty. Whatever you wanted to call her, what the Brothers Grimm brought to the party is as important as what they kicked out. If there was ever any question that fairy tales are not necessarily for children, consider that for a long time the sleeping beauty was awakened not by a chaste kiss from her charming prince, but by outright sexual assault. Thank heavens for the Grimms who realized that little girls would probably do much better by this fairy tale if it didn’t include the rape of an unconscious young woman.
Hansel and Gretel
An array of assorted variations on the Hansel and Gretel theme had existed but here are two character that can be effectively said to be true fairy tale creations from the house of Grimm. Which is to say that the story actually originated in the form of attractive neighbor Dortchen Wild who would later become Mrs. Wilhelm Grimm.
The basic story of Rapunzel predates the first publication of the Grimm version, but even the Grimm version isn’t carved in stone. In fact, some editing and revision took place with this story over the years by the brothers to the point where two basically yet rather distinct versions can be found. In both, however, Rapunzel’s peculiar situation of being trapped in a tower is the work of a witch.
Snow White's Stepmother
You may not know that the origin story of Snow White deals with a wish made her biological mother which came true upon payment of her life to cover the debt. It is upon daddy’s remarriage to a major hottie that the trouble really begins. You see, Snow White’s stepmother is incredibly jealous. The Grimms did not even come close to inventing this fairy tale, but they were responsible for one significant addition: that mirror that Snow White’s stepmother is always consulting for updates on the fairest in the land.
The Valiant Little Tailor
This fairy tale has lot quite a bit of it shine over the course of the latter half of the 20th century. At one point, it was popular enough to serve as a big screen vehicle for Mickey Mouse. The tale is ripe for a comeback in the 21st century as speaks directly to the zeitgeist of the instant internet star who enjoys a ridiculously inappropriate level of fame and fortune in comparison to the labor which actually grants him his good fortune.
The first major fairy tale character one meets upon opening up most Grimm collections is the frog who must be kissed in order to transform back into a human. This fairy tale is a particularly strange for the brothers to commence with as it is filled with both explicit and implicit sexual overtones. Apparently realizing the peculiarity, Wilhelm Grimm would later significantly reduce the erotic quality of the themes when republished as part of his Children’s and Household Tales.
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Grimm’s Fairy Tales Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Grimm’s Fairy Tales is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.