Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some of the Best and Darkest Stories Ever are in this Book!


So I know I mostly talk about television and movies here, but I was just thinking about one of my favourite books of all time... Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales so that’s what I’ve decided to write about today.
I received this book in a rather roundabout way. Growing up my grandparents lived in a housing complex and sometimes when I went to visit they would find me someone my age to play with. I often played with one girl (but don’t ask me for her name now!) and unfortunately her house had had a fire in it and with their insurance claim they had to throw out a lot of books that were perfectly fine, but smelt slightly of smoke. So among a couple other books I grabbed this one.
To be honest with you, I don’t even remember how old I was when I got this book. I’m guessing it was probably in the 10-12years old range. In any case; I read a couple stories and grew incredibly frustrated at the fact they had nothing to do with my favourite Disney movies. I sort of leafed through the book and I remember even then being astonished at how gruesome and grotesque some of the stories really were.
For instance, in the tale “The Princess in Disguise” the princess is forced to flee her home when her FATHER the king wants to marry her. In “the Maiden without Hands” a father mutilates his daughter. Animals want to marry people, mutilation, people are killed in unusual ways, but as I got older.... I liked them more and more. It became less about the magic and more about what was happening, and why. I could enjoy the macabre elements because I was able to understand the morals that the stories ultimately were expressing. Some of the morals were fairly obvious, such as in “The Frog Prince” were honouring your promises will give you happiness in the end. However some morals seem outdated, such as when I read “The Old Witch” I was told that being curious and wilful wasn’t really a good thing, and I think in some cases it is a good thing! But it was more about obeying your parents.... but growing up I think I was more concerned on making sure that curiosity *not wilfulness* was a good thing!
I mean, I guess the macabre is part of all of us and when these tales were told, life was hard, violent, and filled with a lot of death, so it’s natural that stories would have those elements in them. Even if there is a happy ending, you had to crawl through a lot of crap to get that little bit of happiness, if you got any. In “The Sleeping Beauty” many princes (I quote) “died a lamentable death” being “caught and pierced by the thorns”. The Prince, who finally does get through, only does because the 100 year sleep of the princess was ending anyways. The castle literally comes to life, and his kiss is not necessary to wake the princess, though it is still bestowed.
I find it fascinating that these stories have stayed with us through the ages, and find it even stranger that these are the stories we tell kids today. The darker elements of some of these tales are so creepy and effective that I like the idea of them being there. In truth, these were not meant to be children’s tales, they were told by adults to other adults. I know that a lot of filmmakers are returning to that truth. Several fairytale inspired movies have come out and several are coming up in the future that are a lot darker in tone: Sleepy Hollow 1999, Stardust 2007, The Neverending Story 1984, Pan’s Labyrinth 2006,  and there are a bunch of Snow White movies slated for the next couple of years. Movies that aren’t afraid of going into darker themes and grotesque filmmaking techniques (I’m looking at you Sleepy Hollow.... all that blood! But I still love you)
So all in all, I’m glad I dumpster dove for this book. I love these slightly dark and endearing stories, and I think you would too. If you ever get a chance to pick up a copy, or read the original stories somewhere online... Do it!
Best Random Parts of the Book:
            Names like Rinkrank, Katrinelje, Hulda and Rumplestilskin. Hardcover. 211 stories in all, probably about 150 that you’ve never heard of before.
*****/5 J

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