2013 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm collection of fairytales. Cities across Europe are celebrating, since their collection of 86 stories that first appeared in December of 1812 were stories collected from middle class families and reshaped and retold into the iconic stories we still retell today. The anniversary of these two brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob, is such a big deal that it runs until the end of 2013.
The Brothers Grimm wrote some wonderful fairy tales, including Rapunzel, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. For every famous story by the Grimm Brothers, however, there are ten you’ve probably never heard of. The Brothers wrote, or at least have been given credit for, more than 200 fairy tales. Some of the lesser-known stories are quite charming, like Brother and Sister , The Gold Children, Faithful John & The Six Swans. That’s why I just had to create a new playlist sharing these lesser-known gems.
The Ungrateful Son. A man hides a roast chicken because he doesn’t want to share it with his own father. When the father leaves, the chicken turns into a huge toad that jumps on the man’s face and cannot be removed. The man must feed the toad for the rest of his life, lest it eat his face. This story is sort of an early, even creepier version of Alien. Yikes!
The Sole. There aren’t many fairy tales about fish, and this is a good example why. It’s the story of how the herring became the king of the fish and the sole got his mouth on only one side of his face. No offense to fish, but somehow it’s just not as compelling or charming as how the leopard got his spots or the elephant got his trunk. And how many people even know the sole has a mouth on one side of his face? Show of hands… anyone?
The Golden Key. The story of a poor boy who finds a tiny golden key in the snow and then digs up a mysterious iron chest. He puts the key in the chest, opens it up and finds… Well, the Brothers Grimm never tell us what he finds. They just end the story saying we’ll have to wait and see. Excuse me? Unexpected and unsatisfying endings are fine for European art films, but come on, guys, in a kid’s fairy tale we want to know what one earth is in that trunk!
The Poor Boy in the Grave. An orphan boy is tormented and beaten so badly by his foster parents, that, rather than face another beating, he digs his own grave and poisons himself. I think the moral of this story is that if you read it to your kids, you should plan on having them sleep with you in your bed for at least two weeks.
Questions to ponder:
- What are the elements that make a story stick with you?
- How and why do some things become more famous than others? Can you think of any examples?
- What do you think makes a great story?
- What is your favorite story and why?
- Would you have left these stories out of their collection? Why or why not?