FT207 - Grimm's Fairy Tales

Night_0wl

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in Tales from the Vault (FT207:80), March 1986 section, it talks about research throwing up questions on the Brothers Grimm folktales, and goes on to say:
The damage to the scholastic value of Germanic fairytale tradition is incalculable as they also bowdlerised many of the stories: for example, in the original, Snow White was tormented by her mother, not her step-mother and, in the end, the wicked queen is forced to dance in red-hot iron slippers until she dies; and Rapunzel's secret is betrayed, not by a careless word, but by her pregnancy. Bedtimes will never be the same again!

I don't get this. Although today the most well-known versions of many stories are the highly-altered happy-ever-after tales for children, I'd be far more inclined to blame Disney & co. for that than the Brothers Grimm. It's certainly true that they constantly edited and re-wrote tales to suit their sense of propriety, but changes can be tracked from the first edition of 1812 to the last in 1857, and stories compared. The 1812 Snow White (actually Little Snow White) and Rapunzel are the versions FT mentions above, red-hot slippers, pregnancy and all. I don't see how later edits pose any problem for scholars, let alone inflict incalculable damage.

And the Grimms certainly didn't edit out all the darker or sexual elements of the tales. Snow White's would-be killer mother of 1812 becomes her step-mother in 1819, but the iron shoes and dance of death are still there, right through to the final edition of 1857. Rapunzel's 1812 naive question as to why her clothes are getting tight is dropped; but when the 1857 prince finds her again in the wilderness, she is with "her twin children that she had borne, a boy and a girl". In Cinderella, the later version is actually blacker. The step-sisters, ugly only on the inside, are left chagrined in 1812, but from 1819 have their eyes pecked out by pigeons at Cinders' wedding. That's not what I would call bowdlerised.

The Rapunzel quote is from my 20+-year-old copy of "Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales", which includes beheadings, child-murder, cannibalism and more within its 211 stories. Definitely not bedtime reading for the little ones. . .

--
Nowl
 

rynner2

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Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say

Fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast can be traced back thousands of years, according to researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon.
Using techniques normally employed by biologists, academics studied links between stories from around the world and found some had prehistoric roots.

They found some tales were older than the earliest literary records, with one dating back to the Bronze Age.
The stories had been thought to date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries.

In the 19th Century, authors the Brothers Grimm believed many of the fairy tales they popularised were rooted in a shared cultural history dating back to the birth of the Indo-European language family.
Later thinkers challenged that view, saying some stories were much younger and had been passed into oral tradition having first been written down by writers from the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Durham University anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani, who worked with folklorist Sara Graca Da Silva, from the New University of Lisbon, said: "We can come firmly down on the side of Wilhelm Grimm.
"Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology - some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts - but our findings suggest they are much older than that."

The study, which was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, employed phylogenetic analysis, which was developed to investigate evolutionary relationships between species.
It also used a tree of Indo-European languages to trace the descent of shared tales to see how far they could be demonstrated to go back in time.

Dr Tehrani said Jack And The Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure, and could be traced back to when Eastern and Western Indo-European languages split more than 5,000 years ago.
Analysis showed Beauty And The Beast and Rumpelstiltskin to be about 4,000 years old.
And a folk tale called The Smith And The Devil, about a blacksmith selling his soul in a pact with the Devil in order to gain supernatural abilities, was estimated to go back 6,000 years to the Bronze Age.

Dr Tehrani said: "We find it pretty remarkable these stories have survived without being written.
"They have been told since before even English, French and Italian existed.
"They were probably told in an extinct Indo-European language."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35358487
 

escargot

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Snow White's would-be killer mother of 1812 becomes her step-mother in 1819, but the iron shoes and dance of death are still there, right through to the final edition of 1857. Rapunzel's 1812 naive question as to why her clothes are getting tight is dropped; but when the 1857 prince finds her again in the wilderness, she is with "her twin children that she had borne, a boy and a girl". In Cinderella, the later version is actually blacker. The step-sisters, ugly only on the inside, are left chagrined in 1812, but from 1819 have their eyes pecked out by pigeons at Cinders' wedding. That's not what I would call bowdlerised.

The sex would've been omitted but not the violence. A bit like modern US TV.
 

Bad Bungle

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I was looking for threads mentioning Jack and the Beanstalk (as I'm reluctant to start a new one), having read Strange Survivals: Some Chapters in the History of Man By S. Baring-Gould this afternoon (Project Gutenberg). He was talking about Odin from the perspective of 1892.

"The world-tree, the great tree in which he (Odin) hung, the tree which supports heaven and earth, was called Yggdrasil, which means Ogre’s horse, for one of the names of Odin was Yggr or Ogre, to express his love of human sacrifices; and all the old nursery tales and rhymes concerning ogres have reference to this great god of the English people. Jack mounts the beanstalk (Yggdrasil), and above the clouds enters the land of the Ogre, with his one eye, who devours men. Jack the Giant Killer, who lives in Cornwall, represents the British Christian fighting against the Pagan Saxon, impersonated as the great man-eating ogre.
'Fee-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Whether he be alive, or whether he be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.' In this again we have a reference to Woden or Odin, who was also called the Miller; for the mutter or roll of the thunder was supposed to be the working of his quern, grinding up his human victims for his meal".

I thought this interesting, then read Rynner's post about 'the boy who stole the Ogre's treasure' stories being possibly 5,000 years old. This can't be a Christianity/Pagan clash then.
 

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When I was in grade 4 in primary school ( a long time ago, and we had no school library) our teacher had a shelf of books we could borrow. On it was this very old book called Jack the Giant Killer.
Although it was a bit advanced for my age group it started a love for the unusual and a love for reading.
Funny it should be mentioned as for some reason I had been thinking of it today.
 

Bad Bungle

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When I was in grade 4 in primary school ( a long time ago, and we had no school library) our teacher had a shelf of books we could borrow. On it was this very old book called Jack the Giant Killer.
Although it was a bit advanced for my age group it started a love for the unusual and a love for reading.
Funny it should be mentioned as for some reason I had been thinking of it today.
Funny I should find your post today @Iris as I'm rapidly progressing through the Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock. Semi-sentient English woodland that has remained largely untouched since the Ice Age, that's a lot bigger inside and has irregular time zones. The subconscious race memories of humans who wander into the woods are made real - lots of 'Jacks' (nasty tricksters), 'Hoods' (violent woodsmen not necessarily called Robin), myths and legends that have Celtic origins, some Greek and neolithic. Holdstock has obviously done research into our myths and fairytales and I remain fascinated by the grain of 'truth' in the stories that survived down the centuries.
 

Mythopoeika

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Funny I should find your post today @Iris as I'm rapidly progressing through the Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock. Semi-sentient English woodland that has remained largely untouched since the Ice Age, that's a lot bigger inside and has irregular time zones. The subconscious race memories of humans who wander into the woods are made real - lots of 'Jacks' (nasty tricksters), 'Hoods' (violent woodsmen not necessarily called Robin), myths and legends that have Celtic origins, some Greek and neolithic. Holdstock has obviously done research into our myths and fairytales and I remain fascinated by the grain of 'truth' in the stories that survived down the centuries.
I only read the first 2 books in that series.
I guess I should buy them all and catch up with reading.
 

Iris

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I've read one of the series. It's somewhere amongst my many books. I must read it again.
 
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