The grim brothers, aka The Brothers Grimm


So, Philip Pullman has just come out with a new edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I am intrigued!

I’m sure you already know that the Disney versions of these fairy tales are extremely sanitized. The originals were truly, y’know, grim. If you didn’t already know that, you might want to check out this article from Flavorwire, “The Disturbing Origins of 10 Famous Fairy Tales,” which includes a few of the original endings and illustrations. Possibly the worst thing on there is that the original Sleeping Beauty didn’t just prick her finger. No, she had a sliver go up her fingernail. Ewwwwwwwww!!!!!

I grew up with a grim version of the Brothers Grimm. My father, a native German speaker who was raised on these, gave me The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales when I was still in elementary school. This is the great big book that includes “folkloristic commentary” by Joseph Campbell; unsanitized plots; and the most gruesome illustrations you could imagine. Dutiful child that I am, I read and reread these throughout my childhood, and then passed the book down to my own daughter…

My own volume, much battered

Here is the title page since the dust jacket is long gone. Note the tape repair.

This is from a story called “The Willful Child.” WTF??

Illustration from “The Two Travelers.” This story includes the sentence “Then the shoemaker said to him: ‘I will give you a bit of bread to-day, but in return for it, I will put out your right eye.’ ” I kid you not.

Here is one you can read for yourself. This illustration gave me nightmares when I was a kid.

These disembodied hands come from “The Young Giant.” The (male) giant in the story also happens to lactate.

This picture comes from “The Goose-Girl,” which is one of the more well-known tales. It is a long story with many plot twists. Why they chose THIS scene to illustrate, I do not know.


7 thoughts on “The grim brothers, aka The Brothers Grimm

  1. Yeuch!! These are really graphic! I grew up with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, too, but we must have had the sanitised version here. Thank goodness. Some of these illustrations would have given me nightmares! Not sure that they still won’t. Great post, though. Really opened my eyes to the grimness of the Grimms.

  2. Awesome! I love the illustrations! I had a nursery rhyme book as a child (wish I still had it or could find it) that also contained creepy illustrations, though not as graphic as these. I’m actually reading Ralph Manheim’s translation of Grimm’s, which is entitled “Grimm’s Tales for Young and Old.” Manheim feels that calling them “fairy tales” is inaccurate, especially since there aren’t any fairies in any of the tales.

    • I think nursery rhymes are very creepy! I had a Mother Goose collection that was illustrated (I believe) by Raymond Briggs. The pictures were not at all graphic, but there was something grotesque & repulsive about them. *shudder*

      What are your thoughts on the Manheim? I’m not familiar with it.

      • I did a bit of Googling and although I don’t know who compiled the book I had, the illustrations were definitely by L. Leslie Brooke. The Nursery Rhyme Picture Book, Volume One (illustrated by Brooke) is online, but no other volumes, and mine contained more than just the rhymes in the first volume. Seriously creepy pictures and rhymes. One of the rhymes that creeped me out as a kid was Elizabeth, Elspeth, Betsy, and Bess, especially Brooke’s illustration of the girls because they were exactly. Alike. lol

        As for Manheim, I haven’t read very far, but the tales are short and to the point. They contain none of the literary devices we’re used to, like imagery, etc. I don’t speak/read German, but I think he keeps as close to the German as possible. I’m sure of this because Manheim’s prose style in his translation of The Tin Drum is completely different from the tales.

        • “They contain none of the literary devices we’re used to, like imagery, etc.” Whoa, that is an interesting observation. I think that is true of my Grimm book also. There is definitely something different about the writing. Flat, matter of fact, also very compressed at times. I bet you’re right that it’s like that in German too.

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