Brothers Grimm Saved Classic Fairy Tales by Changing Them Forever

By Gaylord, Chris | The Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Brothers Grimm Saved Classic Fairy Tales by Changing Them Forever


Gaylord, Chris, The Christian Science Monitor


There's a certain irony to "Grimm's Fairy Tales." Two-hundred years ago today, Jacob Grimm and his younger brother Wilhelm published a collection of folk tales. The Grimms didn't write these stories; they collected tales that had been handed down from generation to generation. The Brothers Grimm worried that industrialization would erase these classics from memory. So they set out to protect these ancient tales.

However, in preserving this rich tradition, the Brothers Grimms changed the stories forever.

Many readers would be shocked to look at the first-edition stories of Rapunzel, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White. Their plots have changed a lot over the years.

Disney sanitized them, scrubbing away the unsavory parts. Hollywood further reworked them with the recent Kristen Stewart film "Snow White and The Huntsman," the animated movie "Tangled," and Matt Damon's "The Brothers Grimm." ABC and NBC borrowed from the brothers with last year's TV series "Grimm" and "Once Upon A Time." Author Philip Pullman completely rewrote the stories in his new book, "Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm."

In fact, even Jacob and Wilhelm changed the fairy tales from one edition to another.

Even though the Grimms's collection was originally titled "Children's and Household Tales," the book was not written for kids. The brothers imagined their "Fairy Tails" as an academic anthology. It was the work of scholars, compiled by and for serious adults. However, as the books became more popular, the Grimms faced harsh criticism. Parents found the stories far too dark. Churches thought they were not Christian enough.

So, the Brothers Grimm started editing.

The wicked mothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel turned into wicked stepmothers.

They stripped out sexual references, such as in Rapunzel. In the original "Grimm" version, an evil witch holds Rapunzel captive in a tower. …

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