The Violent and Weird Side of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Part Four

By this part of my messed up Grimm's series, it is pretty well established that the fairy tales the Grimm's collected for their book were not the type of fairy tales we let children enjoy today. The morals of these stories had a lot to do with being eaten by strangers, or starved thanks to a greedy friend or foe. These were very real dangers in the cultures they came from, surely. Nowadays, people are just afraid that teaching their children these lessons will give them nightmares. I do not blame them. Here are a few more examples of frightening fairy tales.

Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb is an ordinary boy of extraordinary size. He has two normal sized parents that love him very much, though he is quite small. His size comes in handy when a few men purchase him from his father at Tom's urging. He escapes and eventually wounds up being eaten by a cow. The cow is slaughtered and Tom is eaten with the cow's intestines by a wolf. In the end, he is saved by his father, who beheads the fox and picks the boy out from among its entrails.


Rumpelstiltskin is the story of a girl and a hobgoblin. In the beginning, the maiden's father brags that she can spin gold out of straw; she cannot. She is then kidnapped by the king, who locks her up with a bunch of straw and essentially tells her to spin it to gold or die. The first night, she trades her necklace to a hobgoblin for him to spin it to gold. The second night, she gives him a ring. On the third night, she trades him her first-born child, which it presumably wants to eat.

The maiden is married by the king, who had kidnapped her, imprisoned her and threatened her life for some gold. She has a child, but decides she does not want to give it up. The hobgoblin tells her that she has three nights to guess his name or he will take the child. She guesses his name with the help of another. He flips out so bad that his foot goes through the floor. In other versions, it is he himself who goes through the floor and he tears himself apart in a rage trying to pull himself out -- literally.

Clever Gretel

Clever Gretel is not about the girl who loved and was loved by her brother Hansel. Clever Gretel was a cruel and greedy cook. She drank wine all the time and ate too much of what she cooked. One night, she ate a guest's meal and told the guest that there was no food and that her boss was going to cut his ears off. The guest ran away in a panic. The story ends with the boss thinking the guest ran off with the chickens the cook ate and chasing him with a knife, yelling that he wants only one. The guest thinks he means one ear, but he really means one chicken. Gretel is unaffected by her morbid storytelling.

The Violent and Weird Side of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Part One

The Violent and Weird Side of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Part Two

The Violent and Weird Side of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Part Three

Shelly Barclay

The Violent and Weird Side of Grimm's Fairy Tales: Part Three

In this third installment of our look at just how messed up the Grimm fairy tales really were, we take a look at some kidnapped children, greedy birds, girls who use poop to make their great escapes and something one would expect Hannibal Lecter to do. Well, maybe not. Lecter did seem to have some morals.

Hansel and Gretel

The story of Hansel and Gretel has survived many a century to make it to the present as a story with a deranged witch and two plucky kids. Well, the original has that much, but much more. At the start of Hansel and Gretel, their parents have decided to abandon them in the woods because there is too little food to feed all of them. Well, clever Hansel leaves a trail of stones, so they make it back, at which time, their stepmother pretends she has been waiting for them all along.

Food gets scarce again and the filicidal stepmother decides that it is time to leave the children out in the woods even farther than before. Hansel is unable to get stones, so he sacrifices his only food to leave a trail of breadcrumbs. He and Gretel, after half-starving, stumble upon a house made out of treats. It is owned by a mean old witch who locks up Hansel and forces Gretel to cook rich meals for him so he will get fat. Naturally, as this is Grimm, the old hag wants to eat him. When she decides to put Gretel in the oven alive, Gretel tricks her and the witch is instead burnt alive. The children go home to find their stepmother is dead (never explained) and their rueful father welcomes them. Way to go, dad.

The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage

Inanimate objects are sometimes animate in fairy tales. It's a rule; kind of like not having characters eat each other, but Grimm ignored that one. In this case, a sausage lives in harmony with a mouse and a bird until one day the bird decides it does too much work. When the others agree to change household duties, it results in all of them dying. Perhaps the moral of the story is to do your chores or you will die.

Little Red Riding Hood (Little Red Cap)

In Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf swallows a grandmother whole, waits a bit and then swallows her granddaughter as well. In the Grimm's version, they are both saved by a man who wants the wolf's pelt. However, the versions that the Grimms derived theirs from were far more grotesque than even that. In one, the wolf makes Little Red Riding Hood take off all of her clothes and burn them. She is made to lay in bed with the wolf and is only able to escape when she pretends she has to go number two and makes a break for it. In another, the wolf has left the grandmother for Little Red Riding Hood to eat. Really, this one is quite nasty no matter how you look at it.

The Robber Bridegroom

The Robber Bridegroom is the creepiest fairy tale I have read to date. It involves a young girl who is promised to a man courtesy of her father. She goes to his house as requested, but finds a derelict home with an old woman in it who warns her to leave. The woman hides her in a room, just as a group of men comes in with another girl, who they proceed to kill, undress, chop up and prepare for eating. One of the girl's severed fingers lands in the first girl's lap. Well, she manages to escape and get the men captured, but that does not change the fact that this fairy tale is not safe for life.