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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Too grim for the Grimms...

This is a short film by the wonderful Mucky Puppets based on the tale the Grimms removed from Children's and Household Tales after the first (1812) edition.

I love the film's atmospheric silhouette puppetry, and I'm intrigued by its treatment of this very dark story (the tale can be read online here, along with a commentary by Donald Haase on using it in his teaching here).

Watching the film I couldn't help thinking of this article I read in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. There's no shying away from the fact that this is a very upsetting subject, but then fairy tales often touch upon subjects that we'd prefer to pretend didn't exist: murder, child abuse, rape, forced marriage, incest, cannibalism, bestiality. In their simple prose, and with their refusal to engage in explicit sensationalism, they have, perhaps, always offered us a way of discussing these subjects. But from the Grimms to the present day there has been a dominant move towards the sanitisation of fairy tales for children. I can understand the desire to protect children but this leaves us with a problem—we can edit our collections of stories, but can we can't edit the world.

Thanks to Richard Mansfield for giving me permission to post the film here.


  1. Wonderful film, thanks for posting. Everyday I think I'd like to edit the world...well put.

  2. Thanks for an interesting and enlightening post. I did not know about this fairytale, hidden from the Grimms edition. This reminds me about the first edition of the norwegian fairytales og Asbjørnsen and Moe. It is a story very similar til Knight Bluebeard, called the The boyfriend in the woods. It was not published then, because it was to violent and horrible.

    I also know a story from sami culture, where the children are playing slaughtering the reindeers.

    Eirin - norwegian storyteller

  3. Fascinating link to the Guardian - too difficult a topic to comment coherently, but very interesting :)

  4. Sorry, I'm a bit off topic here. Basically, I'm just stopping in to tell you that I absolutely LOVE your blog! Thanks for bringing it to the world. :)

  5. Thanks all for the comments, and thanks for the info about those tales Eirin.

  6. What an amazing video! I have never understood the censoring of children's book because my parents read me the original Grimms and Edward Gorey's deadly alphabets when I was little. That's probably why I became a fairy tale illustrator, so that I can keep those 'controversial' books in children's hands.

  7. I love Gorey's work. I love Hoffman's Der Struwwelpeter too. Mucky Puppets have also made a great film of Suck-A-Thumb: