Monday, January 10, 2011

The Brothers Grimm and Ugly Justice



Everyone knows that the old, classic fairy tales are scary and violent. But when you dig into them -- particularly the Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm, two facts emerge:

1. Some of the nastiest, most violent parts of the stories are the supposedly happy endings, where the villains get their punishment. Those guys loved their capital punishment. The cruder the better. It was like they were Texans or something.

2. Also, they really liked putting people into contraptions or containers (Usually barrels. What is it with the barrels?) that had some kind of crazy Saw-style modification. Two of these stories are almost identical. They couldn't help themselves.

The King rejoiced when he heard that she was innocent, and they all lived in great unity until their death. The wicked step-mother was taken before the judge, and put into a barrel filled with boiling oil and venomous snakes, and died an evil death.
- The Twelve Brothers

Thereupon the King was full of great joy, but he kept the Queen hidden in a chamber until the Sunday, when the baby was to be christened. And when it was christened he said, "What does a person deserve who drags another out of bed and throws him in the water?" "The wretch deserves nothing better," answered the old woman, "than to be taken and put in a barrel stuck full of nails, and rolled down hill into the water." "Then," said the King, "Thou hast pronounced thine own sentence;" and he ordered such a barrel to be brought, and the old woman to be put into it with her daughter, and then the top was hammered on, and the barrel rolled down hill until it went into the river.
- The Three Little Men in the Wood

...the aged King asked the waiting-maid as a riddle, what a person deserved who had behaved in such and such a way to her master, and at the same time related the whole story, and asked what sentence such an one merited? Then the false bride said, "She deserves no better fate than to be stripped entirely naked, and put in a barrel which is studded inside with pointed nails, and two white horses should be harnessed to it, which will drag her along through one street after another, till she is dead." "It is thou," said the aged King, "and thou hast pronounced thine own sentence, and thus shall it be done unto thee."

- The Goose Girl

When the woman saw her husband, she was thunderstruck, and fell on her knees and begged for mercy. The King said, "There is no mercy. He was ready to die with thee and restored thee to life again, but thou hast murdered him in his sleep, and shalt receive the reward that thou deservest." Then she was placed with her accomplice in a ship which had been pierced with holes, and sent out to sea, where they soon sank amid the waves.
- The Three Snake-Leaves

The King understood it all, and caused the ground below the bridge to be dug up, and then the whole skeleton of the murdered man came to light. The wicked brother could not deny the deed, and was sewn up in a sack and drowned. But the bones of the murdered man were laid to rest in a beautiful tomb in the churchyard.
- The Singing Bone

When the wedding with the King's son had to be celebrated, the two false sisters came and wanted to get into favour with Cinderella and share her good fortune. When the betrothed couple went to church, the elder was at the right side and the younger at the left, and the pigeons pecked out one eye of each of them. Afterwards as they came back, the elder was at the left, and the younger at the right, and then the pigeons pecked out the other eye of each. And thus, for their wickedness and falsehood, they were punished with blindness as long as they lived.
- Cinderella

Then she told the King the evil deed which the wicked witch and her daughter had been guilty of towards her. The King ordered both to be led before the judge, and judgment was delivered against them. The daughter was taken into the forest where she was torn to pieces by wild beasts, but the witch was cast into the fire and miserably burnt.
- Brother and Sister

5 comments:

  1. In all but one of these the wicked person subjected to the horrific punishment was a woman. Any thoughts on that?

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    Replies
    1. Wiiitches! Wiiitches! Burn! Burn!

      But seriously, it's a second class citizen that gets the axe in these morality tales. The old Hardy Boys mysteries always pegged a bitter old black man as the culprit. I wonder why the old dude was bitter? I mean, really, in 1950s America?

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  2. A lot of good those venomous snakes are gonna do in boiling oil.

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  3. The venomous snakes were also being punished. They stole a Snickers earlier in the story.

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  4. I also know a good story called "Glory Hymn Angry Queen" one day princess Bree was punished by her angry evil mother queen named Grimu. She dragged such an inoccent daughter to her room. It was steaming hot. As her punishment, she was beaten on her bottocks with a paddle for 24 hours. When she tried to sit on the couch, she fell off. She soon got so weak within the hour and sadly lead to death. The queen was punished by being fully naked on a chair with a crowd sitting their while the smashed hot gravy on her. That is the story.

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