The Brothers Grimm were the authors responsible for making the likes of fairytales such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk some of the most cherished stories of one’s childhood. Little may the common public know that the original text the brothers wrote, which is now restored to its initial form in English, was very morbid and not necessarily intended for children’s bedtime stories.
University of Minnesota’s Professor emeritus of German and comparative literature, Jack Zipes, is the individual who is responsible for restoring the Brothers Grimm’s original stories into the English language and publishing said translation for the masses to read. Zipes states that the first edition of the Grimms’ tales were not written for kids or common readers. The writers had only published two editions that were aimed strictly for adults, but soon after acquiring notable success, they created a shorter version that was directed towards middle-class citizens and their families. This action lead to the deletion of certain stories and censoring of others.
Zipes’ recreation of the efforts made by the Brothers Grimm includes all 156 stories that the writers initially included in their works. Many of those original 156 were cut out completely after the revisions for a more general audience were made. The tales that many grew up knowing are displayed in a new light in Zipes’ recreation. One’s favorite princess tale is now retold as a blatant R-rated story.
Examples of the aforementioned morbidity include the evil stepmother character in Cinderella instructing her daughters that if the famed glass slipper were to come to their possession to try on for the prince and their foot did not fit, they were to use a knife to take off a piece of their foot so that it will fill the slipper. The sisters did just this, but were ultimately caught for their deception as the prince discovers blood leaking from the slipper.
Another more adult aspect of the works of the Brothers Grimm include the story of Rapunzel. The fair maiden had been locked in a tower all her life under the care of a mother figure she calls Mother Gothel. Hidden from all worldly deeds, Rapunzel is seen as an beacon of innocence and her virtue is taken when a handsome prince happens by her tower and she allows him up through the climbing of her very long hair. The prince and Rapunzel are heavily implied to have sexual relations atop the tower when Mother Gothel is gone. Rapunzel gives her secret away when she questions Gothel on why her clothes are getting tighter with each passing day – revealing that she has been impregnated by the prince.
The Brothers Grimm also edited out the fact that the wicked “stepmothers” seen throughout their stories were in fact the true birthmothers of many of these characters. It is then known that Snow White’s own mother was the one who sought out a huntsman to carve out her daughter’s heart so she could salt it and eat it herself. The stepmother figure in Hansel and Gretel that abandons the children in the woods was in fact their own mother as well. The Brothers Grimm played up these themes due to the fact that during the time of their writing in the early 1800’s, women were dying of childbirth, forcing fathers to remarry and have younger, less adequate stepmothers raise the children who had lost their birthmother.
The original morbid text of the restored first edition of all the fairytales by the Brothers Grimm is available for purchase wherever books are sold. One must thank professor emeritus Jack Zipes for bringing the truth of the Brothers Grimm to light at last.
By Cody Collier