Tag Archives: Brothers Grimm

Taking the Grim out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Thursdays Bite

a paranormal blog

A few weeks ago I went to the library for a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I went to the trusty computer and typed in the name, and about a hundred titles came up. Most of them picture books for children that didn’t have all the stories in them, but were also lacking something else. They’d taken the grim out of Grimm.

I was particularly looking for Snow White, the fairy tale that I’ve twisted before and am twisting again as a sequel to Little Red Riding Wolf. You likely won’t be surprised to find that out of all those books, most of them had been sanitized.

I think it started with Disney. Snow White was the first full length major film for Disney. (Wikipedia’s info on Snow White HERE) A lot was riding on it’s success. Would people go see a long cartoon? Were they interested in a story that had been told many times? Maybe they were looking for a more exciting ending, but I think it’s more likely that they were horrified at the ending where the Queen is locked in red hot iron shoes and dances till she dies.

Yep, fairy tales are not for children, that’s for sure. In the translations from the German that I read it’s only one line. I as a reader, would have liked more explanation. Why red hot slippers? Was this a common punishment for attempted murder or treason? From my modern perspective the ending lacks an explanation that would make me understand why the Queen would go to the wedding at all, knowing what her fate is to be. But she goes, and naturally has to step into the pre-prepared slippers and be tortured.

I say naturally, because when you read through the entire collection of tales you realize that we have taken the horror out of the fairy tales. Our children live in a different age. We no longer go to hangings as entertainment, or throw food at people locked into xxx on the square. And we definitely don’t expose children to the idea that bad deeds, or even minorly careless ones, are punished by torture and death.

But that is exactly what the Grimm’s did. So when looking for inspiration I go looking for the original fairy tales. What pieces of the story are germane to the tale. What will readers be looking for? Do you have to have seven dwarfs? In the Russian version it’s seven brawny woodsmen. Do you have to have a glass coffin? What about the apple? In the original version there are three chances for the Queen to kill the princess. A tight corset, a poisoned comb and the apple. But the only one we really remember is the apple. Do we thank Disney for that?

What about the Queen’s comeuppance? Should I have my queen dancing at the end of the book? Disney didn’t, but do you remember what did happen? In true 1930’s style she is struck by lightning while trying to lever a giant rock onto the seven dwarfs. She falls off a cliff and the rock follows her.  Death by the hand of God. No torture involved.

I have to say I had to find it and watch it to remember how the Queen died. It isn’t memorable. But those red hot iron shoes? I remembered them years later. What impression do you want to leave with your endings? How dark is your fairy tale? Would it compete with the Grimm’s stories?

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Paranormals: Modern Day Cautionary Tales

Thursdays Bite

A Paranormal Themed Blog

The roots of paranormal stretch deep, far past the gothics of the sixties, past the rise of horror and mystery in the Victorian age all the way to our oldest tales. The ones we know think of as sweet, innocent and only for children. Well, mostly for children. For a long time authors of all genre’s have been twisting the old fairy tales into new dark tales. But the originals were created just as dark, sometimes even horrifying.

I love twisted fairy tales, and have for many years so when I looked for inspiration a few years ago, that is right where I went. The result’s are Little Red Riding Wolf and my novel, The Queen’s Huntsman.

Little Red Riding Wolf, my sensual novella, received an Honorable Mention in Passionate Ink’s Stroke of Midnight contest. Little Red is loosely based on an old French fairy tale called (amazingly enough) Little Red Riding Hood. You may have read it. But you might not have read the original written by a famous French author named Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703). Not as famous as the Grimm brothers he is the author of not only Little Red Riding Hood, but romance’s greatest fairy tale, Cinderella. Unlike sweet Cinderella though, Little Red is a dark tale that Perrault ends with a sinister message.

Fairy tales were the original tales of horror in a time when most people couldn’t read and the only book available in many places was a bible written in Latin. Around the fire stories were told to entertain and to warn children of dark places and dangerous  people. As we know they’ve been watered down over the centuries and likely changed many times to suit the culture. Perrault’s story is a cautionary tale warning little girls not to trust strangers and ends with a lightly veiled warning about pedophiles.

These stories form the roots of romance and horror. Cinderella swept off her feet and out of poverty is first tortured by her evil step-mother and step-sisters. Snow White, sent off to be murdered by her step-mother, only avoids death by the tender feelings of the huntsman, but does he save her? No. He sends her off into the deep dark woods alone. These are the lighter fairy tales, the darker ones (like the Red Shoes) are rooted in death and madness.

Just as in the old world when fairy tales married fantasy and horror, paranormal is the marriage of magic and our modern world. Men live down the street and look normal, but turn into ravaging beasts at the full moon. Evil witch step-mothers from the past morph into modern day  witches and vampires who fight in city streets in a struggle for survival. Are we sending our own warnings?

Are paranormal stories tales of romance or warnings of where you might go if you stray into the dark? We live in one of the safest times in modern history. We don’t need to worry about walking down city streets, or do we? When we live in a time when women are expected to live alone in city apartments and need to get to work, to parties, to the grocery store on their own, are we to tell them its not safe? No, if we do that, no woman would walk alone and our world wouldn’t be the same. Instead we, just like our predecessors, tell our tales. We set up scary situations, thny warn under their happy endings, it’s not safe. Things lurk in the dark.

In paranormal we disguise our murderers as viscous vampires and wild wolves. We create heroes from fear and strong women to take them on. We may not be aware of our role as our society’s warning system, we may only think we are telling stories. But in truth we join a long tradition of using story telling to mask the truth, to sugar coat the threat. But we still do what our ancestors did for thousands of years, sending messages of caution to our readers. Beware the dark stranger. Lock your doors. Don’t venture out at night. Or the bogeyman might eat you.

Like this blog? Have some ideas for me? Leave a comment and let me know.

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