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The Grimms Introduction

Posted by bebowreinhard on November 26, 2016 at 9:45 PM

I wrote the following as an introduction in one of the Grimms American Macabre edits, when it was known as Modern Grimms Fairy Tales. See what you think about what you'll find in these pages.





The original Grimms Fairy Tales, according to W. H. Auden in 1944, should be ranked next to the Bible in importance. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm compiled these fairy tales as early as 1823, and Jacob, in searching for a publisher, declared that the intent was to preserve sacred narrative traditions. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, claimed that the original Grimms wrote down the voices of their era, but shaped in a certain fashion, leaving out the criticisms of the prelates, the mayors, landlords and the Church. They were even further cleaned up by the Grimms themselves as they realized their market was less for adults and more for children. The purity of the tales was more important than the message, and even today reflect the purity with which we attempted to raise our children, sanitize them from the reality and protect them from knowledge of potential harm in the world.

     Most of the familiarity with the Grimms Tales is of these cleaned up versions, what one might call Disney-ized. And in today's world, we know how anti-political that is. So you can find today two different versions of original Grimm's tales, but the cleaned-up versions for children lose both impact and interest. And with their villain-ized animals, they lack a certain relevance in today's pro-environmental climate.

     So in presenting Grimm's Modern Fairy tales, the hope is the offer children a more modern look at what a fairy tale can do for them in real life, and that is to demonstrate manners of living and attitude that might help them to cope in ways that even radical TV and cinema still miss. These tales will talk to children of all ages in issues that will mean something to them as they struggle to understand the world around them today.

     Regardless of which political party is in current charge of our lives, there is a continuing need to recognize, in all of us, the potential to live better and more fully with nature, rather than usurping it for greed.

     You won't see this collection cleaned up, for what most young adults and pubescents need, even in these modern times, are stories that educate them on what they are most curious about, the consequence of sexual explorations. You'll find several of those included here, not graphic, but with a certain sensibility that is not shameful. You'll find both light-hearted drama and blood-curdling darkness; in other words, all levels of experience lie between these pages. The beauty is that not all stories are meant to be understood at all ages, but one can return to them again and again and take out a different perspective each time.

     Grimm's Modern Fairy Tales is a collection of short stories meant for the teen and young adult market but created to be a stimulating, mythological, symbolic read for all ages. This collection is meant to pick up where parents left off. Many children have to learn about their growing awareness of sexuality from their peers; from everyone and everywhere, it seems, than from their parents. As a parent of three grown children, I am fully aware of the importance of these conversations, I lacked the authority to know how to get my children to listen.

      Children, it seems, do not want to learn certain things from their parents because it means they have to see parents "that way." To present them with a book like this means that we freely acknowledge that parents cannot do it all for their kids. No message is more important today. No job is more important than parenting, and no job is given us with less training. So there are all kinds of parents vs children stories, only a few of which deal with sex.

     The entertainment value of the human and nature lessons here is of utmost importance, because no one wants to read for entertainment and feel the preacher's breath. There are talking animals, ghosts, and families in disarray, dreams that aren't dreams, and tales of revenge. There are happy endings that don't always seem happy, sad endings that are satisfying, and twisted endings that will leave them with shivers and images for some time to come. Whether the tale is about girls, or boys, or both, they will be enjoyed equally by all because of the insights into the complexity of human nature that are depicted.

      Nor does this collection skirt political issues. Estes claimed that three tales Bluebeard, Thumbelina and the Princess and the Pea, had been so powerful as to have been used to keep up the skirmishes of war. Here in the modern tales we instead look for paths of keeping up the peace and honoring the environment, and find blatant ways to ridicule those who find war a first resort rather than last.

     We also don't abuse animals or nature, the way the original Grimm's tales did. Quite often the animals provided the sad part of their happy endings. Humans could also communicate with animals in a number of their stories, but that communication wasn't necessarily beneficial. Here, if there's a conflict between humans and animals, the animals will win, sometimes allowing humans access to their special knowledge, as symbolic of what happens when humankind believes it can conquer nature.

      Disney adapted a few of the original Grimm's Tales, making fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White American icons, even though these were based on German stories written for the peasants. But often in the adaptation the original message is lost. The golden haired beauty, for instance, is not beautiful in face but in soul. The beauty who is far better than the rest means that her nature and not her face is beautiful, but in the visual telling of the tale, we recognize only the physical beauty. Even Shrek distorted the message by going to the other extreme; by preferring their ogre appearance, they don't understand that it is not the appearance but how you feel inside that counts.

      A number of these modern stories could be adapted without the internal and symbolic message lost; for animation, such as Heart of Ahmalia, Golfer and the Tree, The Three Sisters, Wisdom of the Three, and The Cave Bird. Classy horror films could be made from Traveling Salvation Show, Unleashing the Wolves, Path of the Moon, Someone Else's Shoes or Blessed Are the Bloody. Others could be told as oral stories to young kids for bedtime, such as the Lousy Flea and King Fluffy the Great. Several, though with a sexual theme, should not make any parent hesitate allowing even their pre-teen to have access, especially in today's world. At first, some stories, like Babe In the Woods, may seem controversial but the message that is embedded is of utmost importance for our children, and the health of the world in general.

     The original Grimm's were written for the peasants of the old world to help them escape and dream of riches and empowerment. These modern tales are created for escape back into the world of nature; a reversal, you might say, but also to empower them to make their own choices in life, learning ways to take control of their lives. Filled with bawdy humor, blood-curdling drama and table-turning pranks, this series will help anyone living in today's modern world to relate to their environment just a little bit more. Some of the stories are not modern, it's true, but even in relating tales of moments past we can see bits of our future, and that's what these tales are all about.

     Violence is an important part of the tale, today as well as in the past. We often disdain violence without recognizing its benefit -- that we are to sit up and pay attention to the seriousness of the message. No violence should ever be gratuitous, without a message. Only in this manner today do we see real damage done to fragile psyches. Once we learn this, our tale-telling in Hollywood and elsewhere will take on new meaning.

     Happy endings? That all depends on what you call happy. The purpose of this book is to get us all to sit up and take notice of the world around us, of nature, of love, of what is really meant by the pursuit of happiness. And if we look at happy endings as being the attainment of something we want, we really won't recognize a happy ending when we see it. Look beyond the ending in these stories for the happy ending because that's where it will lie -- in your imagination, where your mind travels beyond the story's end. No reading is worth any value if it takes you nowhere beyond its pages. This is where people today are losing the delight in reading. The original Grimm's tales, before the clean-up, also had a number of tales without happy endings to instead confront us with harsher realities of life. When the package is not neatly wrapped with a happy bow, we have to do a little more thinking on our own, but the end result is so much more satisfying.

      Can children read these stories? For the most part, these are young adult and adult tales. This is the way the book is marketed. However, if a precocious child were to get their hands on this book, they would not be traumatized by it any more than any magic or sorcery book, because the sexual language is well cloaked by symbolism. Only if the child is already familiar with the terms will they understand these certain stories. No lock and key will be needed here.

      So dive in, and expect magic. Because that's what the world is all about today, as it was back in the original Grimms day.



My grandmother, Elizabeth Grimm Bebow, lived in the house on the cover of this book, and the photo shows as it stands today. (I don't know how the bra got in the tree, honest, but how appropriate, so I left it in.) Whether she was actually related to Jacob and Wilhelm is still open to speculation. Here are my efforts to trace these roots so far:


      The distinguished surname Grimm can be traced back to Brandenburg, a region that eventually expanded to incorporate the Rhineland, Westphalia, Hannover, parts of Saxony, Pomerania, Silesia, and Hessen. The Germanic Semnonen tribe lived here, then the Slavic tribe of the Heveler, who held this territory until the arrival of the Christian Saxons.


     The name Grimm became noted for its many branches within the region, each house acquiring a status and influence which was envied by the princes of the region. In their later history the name became a power unto themselves and were elevated to the ranks of nobility as they grew into this most influential family.


     The family name grew to the same dimensions as the population explosion in the 16th century. They established branches in Bohemia, Basel, Bavaria, Austria and Solothurn, Switzerland. Their special interests were political, military and religious. Notables were the Count Grimm von Bentheim and the Bohemian Knights of 1859. Jacob (1785-1863) and his brother Wilhelm Grimm(1786-1859), born in Hessen, were the founders of folklore as well as historians of the German language. Their dictionary and collection of fairy tales are world famous. Hermann Grimm (1828-1901), son of Wilhelm, became known as an art and literature historian, whose works were translated into several languages.


      Prussia became a haven for political and religious refugees, including Salzburg Protestants and the French Huegonauts.


      Andreas Grimm came to Philadelphia in 1736. Heinrich Grimm, with his wife Barbara Mohler, came to either Carolina or Pennsylvania in 1772. August Grimm, 41, came to Winterhill, Massachusetts, in 1778. Joseph Grimm came to Texas in 1846. Hans Grimm (1875-1959) from Lower Saxony, was a nationalist writer in the twenties.


     Grandmother was, unfortunately, not too anxious to talk about her family history, and I was not yet writing this book when she died so there was an opportunity missed. I do know that her parents' names were Hans Jacob (H.J.) Grimm and Wiebeva Elsabea Dorothea (Dora) (Kolpein). The town of Grimms (where this house was located) in Wisconsin was not named after our Hans Jacob Grimms but after a different H.J. Grimms, or so the story goes (certain relation claim this but without source of this knowledge). They referred to Grimms as the village.


     I welcome anyone's input on the family tree of Grimms. How fun it would be to establish this connection! And if it turns out we are not related, the name is still valid, as are the tales.


     And finally thanks to all who read, for remaining young at heart.




Categories: History, Fiction, Social Issues

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