Earlier this month, I posted a piece on the 200th anniversary of first edition of the Brothers Grimm’s collection of German fairytales: http://wp.me/pYql4-2sw.
Yesterday the Sacramento Bee printed an article on this treasure trove of folklore and some of the worldwide activities the bicentennial has inspired (“The Grimm brothers from many angles,” by Jan Ferris Heenan, http://www.sacbee.com/2012/10/28/4939548/the-grimm-brothers-from-many-anglesin.html).
Of particular interest is the publication of a new collection, The Annotated Brothers Grimm by Harvard professor, Maria Tatar. At $35, it’s not cheap, but since I don’t do Playstation and Christmas is coming up…
In the 45 years after 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published six more editions which were eventually translated into more than 160 languages. In the Bee article, Jan Heenan explains that the Grimm brother’s motivation was partly political – Napoleon had conquered the German states and the Grimms sought to preserve something “authentically German.” They also understood the irreversible changes taking place because of industrialization. Farms, towns, and forests, the birthplace of traditional tales for millennia, were emptying out as economic change drove people into cities and factories.
“These stories were the television and pornography of an earlier age,” said author John Updike, and the summaries of earlier versions of the tales makes this clear. Rapunzel got pregnant, the stepmother wanted to eat Snow White’s liver and lungs, and in some versions, Red Riding Hood disrobes for the wolf. Not the stuff of Disney, but according to Maria Tartar, the originals offer something more important for adults:
“These are stories that show you no matter how bad it is…if you use your wit and have courage, you can get back home again. Even if we know in the real world that you don’t always survive, these are the stories that tell you…you do have a chance.”
Tartar’s book is the new number one on my wish list.