hard facts of the grimms fairy tales The Hard Facts Of The Grimms' Fairy Tales by Maria Tatar. Princeton. 1987. Princeton University Press. 278 pages. Cover illustration - Snow White. From 'Sneewittchen. Ein Kinder-Marchen mit 17 Bildern, illustrated by Theodore Hosemann (Berlin - Winckelmann, 1847). 0691067228.


From one of the most interesting writers on folklore around, a look at the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tales in their uncensored form tracing their transformation from adult reading material to the watered-down tales that many of us first heard as children.




   A look at the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tales in their uncensored form tracing their transformation from adult reading material to the watered-down tales that many of us first heard as children. Even those who remember that Snow White's stepmother arranges the murder of her stepdaughter, that doves peck out the eyes of Cinderella's stepsisters, that Briar Rose's suitors bleed to death on the hedge surrounding her castle, or that a mad rage drives Rumpelstiltskin to tear himself in two will be surprised by Maria Tatar's revelations about the tales of the brothers Grimm in their unexpurgated form. Murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest: the darker side of classic fairy tales figures as the subject matter for this intriguing study of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Nursery and Household Tales. Although children never have much trouble accepting the hard facts of the bedtime stories in this collection, adults have often found it difficult to come to terms with their sensationalistic content. Bruno Bettelheim has taught us to look for deeper symbolic meanings in the violence of fairy tales. Now Professor Tatar skillfully employs the tools not only of the psychoanalyst but also of the folklorist, literary critic, and historian to examine the harsher aspects of the stories gathered by the Grimms. Few books have been written in English on the tales collected by the Grimms, and none has probed their allegedly happy endings so thoroughly. From a first chapter on 'Sex and Violence' to an epilogue entitled 'Getting Even,' the author presents an entirely new interpretation of this best-selling of all German books. She focuses above all on the wishes for revenge that drive the heroes and heroines of the Grimms' tales. In transforming folk materials that once served as adult entertainment into children's reading matter, the Grimms may have suppressed episodes touching on sexual matters, but they often embellished descriptions of cruelty, especially when it took the form of revenge. For Professor Tatar violent family conflicts, the pitting of the weak against the strong, and universal fantasies of retaliation are keys to the enduring popularity of the Grimms' stories. 'Tatar seeks to reexamine the Grimms' tales by combining methods from psychology, structuralism, folklore, and social history. She has a fine ability to bring together research in the field and to conceive new interpretations. The book is eminently readable and will certainly help the general reader to reassess the Grimms' tales. ' - JACK ZIPES, University of Florida.




Tatar Maria MARIA TATAR is Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. She is the author of SPELLBOUND: STUDIES ON MESMERISM AND LITERATURE (Princeton).








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The Neglected Books Page

20 September 2019

www.NeglectedBooks.com: Where forgotten books are remembered
  • Gaëtan, or The Stock-Taking, by Edith de Born (1950)

    “Gaëtan consists of a 100-page discussion between the wife and the mistress of a Frenchman who has been killed in a car accident,” wrote Julian Symons in his terse review of Edith de Born’s first novel. It’s an accurate description, but also a spoiler, for through much of the book, we only know we are... Read more

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  • Chapters 1 and 2 from In Our Metropolis, by Phyllis Livingstone (1940)

    Back in March, I posted a short item about two forgotten novels I’d come across in an advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement. Neither received much attention and both quickly disappeared from sight. I was interested in knowing more about both books, so when I had the chance to visit the British Library for a... Read more


  • Businessmen as Lovers, by Rosemary Tonks (1969)

    Businessmen as Lovers was Rosemary Tonks’ fourth novel and, to be honest, the first in which she seems to relax and not be relentlessly straining to be clever. It’s her only novel not set in London: the whole story takes place on a train through France and an island off Italy, and perhaps the setting... Read more

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  • Actors and Directors: Two Anecdotes from Letters from an Actor, by William Redfield (1967)

    Ralph Richardson and Basil Dean Some thirty years ago, Richardson was rehearsing a play directed by Basil Dean. The latter was the last of the old-time directors on the British side of the Atlantic. By “old-time,” I mean abusive, cruel, sarcastic, and contemptuous of actors. His American equivalent, albeit far younger, would be Jed Harris.... ...

  • Letters from an Actor, by William Redfield (1967)

    In 1964, Sir John Gielgud convinced Richard Burton to star in a Broadway production of Hamlet. Still smoking hot from his big-screen romance with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, Burton was looking to solidify his street cred as a serious actor after a few Hollywood duds. Gielgud’s motivation is a little less clear, as gradually becomes... Read more


  • The Long Sunday, by Peter Fletcher (1958)

    Church, prayer, going to Sunday services and weekday evening meetings remains the center of life for some families and communities. One hundred years ago, they were the frameworks of the rituals and values of many English people, particularly those of the class of shopkeepers and lesser professions. Each denomination and sect identified itself through its... Read

  • The Fire Escape, by Susan Kale (1960)

    The paperback editions of The Fire Escape trumpet its message: “The tragic, unvarnished story of a prostitute.” Which is a bit like plastering the banner line, “The Story of a Cockroach” across the cover of The Metamorphosis: yes, well, I guess you could say it is, but that’s actually missing the point in a pretty... Read more

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  • Blitz Writing: Night Shift and It Was Different at the Time, by Inez Holden (2019)

    As a rule, I don’t cover in print books on this site: the fact that a book is in print is proof that it may be underappreciated, but it’s certainly not forgotten. However, I have to make an exception in the case of the Handheld Press’s recent release of two of Inez Holden’s three books... Read more


  • Journey Through a Lighted Room, by Margaret Parton (1973)

    I knew I was going to like Margaret Parton’s memoir, Journey Through a Lighted Room, on page two, when she writes of reflecting upon a Quaker meeting while “wandering aimlessly about the garden with a vodka and tonic in hand.” This is the story of a woman who wasn’t ashamed by the fact that she... Read more

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  • The Mere Living, by B. Bergson Spiro (Betty Miller) (1933)

    Had The Mere Living not been largely forgotten by now, it would undoubtedly be saddled with an shakeable and unfavorable comparison to Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. For both are circadian novels (taking place within the space of a single day) set in London and both really heavily on the use of a stream of consciousness... Read more

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