Well, it’s the end of a Grimm week. Not the relentless rain but the Brothers Grimm. If you haven’t heard, then where have you been? It’s the 200th anniversary of their collection of classic fairytales. Even Google caught on with their stunning doodle.
These fairytales were not as we now know them. They were dark and sinister, violent and unforgiving, so much so that after the War, the tales were whitewashed from German schools as there was a belief that they were in part responsible for the German psyche that could allow such unthinkable atrocities to take place.
But they were not German tales. They were borrowed from many cultures, their origins so complex and intertwined that they cannot be untangled.
Another event happened in 1939. Disney got hold of the Snow White story and sanitised it. And many many more Grimm stories. I grew up on Disney. My children grew up on Disney. So reading the Grimm versions of such classics as Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel is quite a shock. Do we let our kids hear these stories as they were adapted back then? With their cannibalism, dismemberment and child abuse? Or do we let them get on with Disney? Who’s to say what is the right version. These stories are alive.
So will we ever have established versions that reflect our society more accurately or as we would like our society to be?
Well, we have Angela Carter.
But I am strangely fond of the Cinderella with the helpful tweeting birds rather than the one with the step-sisters who cut off their toes and heels to fit in the glass slipper.