Fairy tales involve anything but fairies
As we fast approach All Hallow’s eve, otherwise known as Halloween to capitalists, we pay tribute to popular fairy tales that fashion some of the most Gothic and impressive costumes and themes seen during the spooky festival.
The bizarre tradition linked to ghouls, eyeballs in a jar and children lost in the woods is annually celebrated on the 31st of October as a worldwide affair.
Do you remember being tucked into bed at night when you were a child? What about those times when you had doubts on whether a monster was lurking beneath your bed or within the dark confines of your closet?
The paranoia probably stemmed from some of the morbid fairy tales that you heard from aloof adults who did not know better. Fairy tales are for children they would say. Yeah right.
A duo of masterful German fairy tale authors, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, known collectively as the Grimm Brothers, were renowned for their adaptation of folklore, with the compilation of their work simply known as Children’s and Household Tales, first published in 1812.
The Grimm brothers were great contributors to nightmares for many generations.
It is fitting that the English language has borrowed the family name Grimm as a loanword (grim)to describe things or situations that are very serious or gloomy.
Some of the notable stories within the collection include: Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and The Little Red Riding Hood.
In this article, we shall attempt to briefly examine the tales above and hopefully pick the brains (rather appropriate time to pick any brain) of the Grimm Brothers.
Tuck yourself in, it is story time!
“A cursed tower so high that you had to scroll to see all of it” credits to: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
A story about a pregnant woman who falls victim to the usual cravings, in this case, for rampion, a plant with juicy leaves like spinach and roots tasting much like the radish (multi-purpose, but I digress) and coincidentally, the tastiest rampions were grown in the farm of her neighbour.
So, the husband of the woman, being the dedicated spouse that he was, decides to trespass upon the fertile soil of his neighbour and steal some of the healthy delicious plants, perhaps as a before bed surprise for his darling wife.
Unfortunately, the owner of the farm caught the man red-handed and decided to punish him by imposing a ridiculously harsh penalty. Instead of calling upon local law enforcement authorities, the strange woman demanded to obtain the first-born child of the trespasser. And for some ungodly reason, he decided that it was a fair enough deal.
It is hard to fathom how the conversation went; “I stole some plants and you want the seed of my family…hmmm…okay then, I shall compromise.”
The man brought the awful news back to his pregnant wife (who probably had to settle for plain porridge and was shaking with rage), who similarly complied to the ridiculous ultimatum of their neighbour. It was after all, her craving, which got them into such a fix.
The child was taken away from her parents and brought up by their neighbour, who kept the pretty girl locked high up in a cloud-penetrating tower. She was named Rapunzel.
This is where the tale gets a little warped.
Many years later, the girl matures into a radiant beauty with extremely long blond hair. The only access point in the door-less tower is through a window and by ascending and descending the hair of Rapunzel. Imagine the excruciating pain on the hair follicles as the climber approaches, a sumo would probably rupture brain cells and kill the young girl immediately.
All you had to do was shout nicely, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, please let down your hair!”
A king eventually learns of the terrible tower and falls head over heels for the young woman and they get together. The ‘’adoptive’’ mother however, was disapproving and wanted to keep Rapunzel all to herself. She snips off the locks and magically teleport the young lady to the dessert, where she gives birth to a pair of twins under the scorching sun.
After much hardship and defeating the witch-like woman, the royal couple lived happily ever after.
Losing a child over vegetable, imprisonment and violence…The Brothers Grimm certainly prepared children for the ugly world with trial by fire in their stories.
Hansel & Gretel
“If you enjoy eating or being eaten, enter all the same!” (Credits: Snapwire Pexels.com)
The next story is a precautionary tale for parents who decide to leave their children unattended.
It begins with an anxious woodcutter who has problems supporting his family as the local demand for his usual services reach an all-time low.
While in bed, he shares his burdened thoughts with his second wife, who suggests that the children (from the first marriage of the man, what a selfish woman) be abandoned so that he would have less mouths to feed. The miserable father was convinced.
His children were Hansel and Gretel. Their stepmother brought them deep into the woods and left them there with nothing but fire and a loaf of bread each. It is certainly a sorrowful scene.
However, Hansel, the wittier of the siblings, had dropped pebbles along the way. So, the children traced the trail back home. The stepmother was furious to see their reappearance and suggested that the children be thrown back into the wild.
Hansel was not allowed to pick pebbles this time and he decided to create a trail with the breadcrumbs in his pocket instead. Of course, it proved ineffective as woodland animals gobbled them up.
The siblings were genuinely lost this time and found their way to a peculiar house constructed from pastry. The building belonged to a cannibalistic ancient witch who wanted to consume the children the moment her eyes set upon their young flesh.
The pair successfully escaped their doom and burgled for treasures within the building on their way out. They struggled to return home and when they finally did, hugged their father, who was extremely remorseful for his actions.
The wicked stepmother had already died due to an unknown cause at the time (maybe the woodcutter decided not to feed her anymore). The precious stolen goods allowed the family to thrive and live comfortably ever after.
The Grimm brothers were imparting a moral story on the importance of responsible parenthood but as always, their content is characteristically twisted.
The Little Red Riding Hood
“The girl who cried wolf” (Credits: Pixabay.com)
The gripping fable was made infamous by pioneering writer, Charles Perrault, who was an early literary agent of the fairy tale genre. The Brothers Grimm took the concept and gave it a face lift.
The story is about a girl dressed in a red cape, who skips in the foreboding forest holding a basket of fruits on her way to visit her grandmother. Things turn nasty when an intelligent wolf (almost like a werewolf really) studies her route, talks to her (werewolf for certain) and plots to trick the girl.
The wolf breaks into the house of the old lady and swallows the woman whole. The wolf decides to cross-dress in granny clothes and lay in bed, setting up an ambush for the red-hooded visitor.
Upon arrival, the girl innocently points and describes the wolf-like features of her ‘’grandmother’’, one by one and she gets sprung on and consumed by the canine villain. A heroic woodcutter, sensing something amiss, barges into the cottage and confronts the foul animal with perfect timing.
He sees the wolf and performs ‘’surgery’’ on the beast with his hunting knife, revealing the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood still alive within its belly. The man decides to fill the empty belly with stones (The WWF was only set up in 1961). The wolf dies when it tries to wake up and collapses due to the crushing weight.
The characters lived fearlessly ever after.
It is evident in this macabre story, that the authors explore the art of deception and dangers of innocence. The gruesome details however, did seem a bit of an excess for children readers.
Childhood: “A time of innocence and discovery” (Credits: Charlein Gracia on Unsplash)
For many of us, fairy tales were a huge part of our childhood. Contrary to mainstream belief though, they are not as innocent as they are often portrayed in modern times. One way or another, these ominous stories attract a part of the human psyche and have lived on as household classics.
For some of us, those fancy and grim scenes from childhood remain a part of our adult lives.
‘A Wicked Tale’ poster by Singapore Director Tzang Merwyn Tong.
A wicked tale will be available on Premise TV on 15 November 2018.
One fine example comes from Director Tzang Merwyn Tong, who adapted his 2005 experimental psycho-thriller piece, A Wicked Tale, from the narrative of The Little Red Riding Hood.
The traditional story of threatened innocence is transformed into a captivating tale of a youthful woman seduced by the corrupt influences in the form of a stranger (the proverbial wolf?), who shatters her innocence into a million fragments. Does she find herself so deeply enticed by the tempting forces and refuses to be saved?
The film debuted in the prestigious 34th Annual International Film Festival Rotterdam, with an overwhelmingly positive response and won a Gold Remi Award at the 2005 WorldFest Houston International Film Festival in the USA.
According to the director, ‘I wanted to present the film the way fairy tales are presented to our subconscious. They are not presented to us as “real” stories. There is always some sense of make-belief.’
If you are feeling up to it, visit us at Premise TV to watch A Wicked Tale and browse through a wide gallery of online content covering a range of intriguing topics.
Play nice this Halloween, it is always pretend until somebody gets their childhood bruised.
Author: Laurenzo Jude